Pentagon to propose increasing US troop numbers in Iraq

Pentagon will suggest to raise number of US troops in Iraq to support Iraqi Army in fight against DAESH terror organisation

Photo by: AFP (Archive)
Photo by: AFP (Archive)

US Army soldiers from 1-12, 1st Cavalry Division, carry their bags as they prepare for the flight back to Fort Hood from Kuwait after exiting from Iraq on 13 December 2011 at Camp Virginia, near Kuwait City, Kuwait.

The Pentagon, headquarters of the US Department of Defense, will propose to President Barack Obama for boosting US troop numbers in Iraq soon, a top US military official announced Friday.

"We have a series of recommendations that we will discuss with the president in the coming weeks to further enable our support for the Iraqi security forces," said General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"(Defense Secretary Ashton Carter) and I both believe that there will be an increase in US forces in Iraq in coming weeks, but that decision hasn't been made," Dunford said.

The recommendations will especially include US support for Iraqi forces in their efforts to retake Mosul from DAESH , the largest city in the north of the country.

Iraqi soldiers reload a weapon during clashes with DAESH terrorists on the outskirts of Makhmour, south of Mosul, Iraq, March 25, 2016. (Reuters)

Pentagon officials have previously expressed their desire to speed up the training of Iraqi soldiers, or to supply logistical support for the Mosul operation.

This week US Army ratified its some 200 Marines and artillery in northern Iraq, with the artillery used to support Iraqi soldiers.

US Defense Secretary Ash Carter also announced on Friday the US believes it killed Haji Iman, a senior leader in charge of finances for DAESH, and Abu Sarah, who Carter said was charged with paying fighters in northern Iraq.

The US military confirmed this week the presence of some 200 Marines and artillery in northern Iraq.

"There is no inconsistency between what this artillery unit did and what our aviation is doing every single day" in its bombing campaign against DAESH, Dunford said during a news conference at the Pentagon.

Currently, the US force level in Iraq is officially 3,870. But defence officials say the actual number is closer to 5,000 according to media reports, which Dunford did not deny on Friday.

An American military trainer gives a thumbs up to Iraqi soldiers during an exercise on January 7, 2015 at the Taji base complex, which hosts Iraqi and US troops and is located north of Baghdad. (AFP Archive)

Iraq's armed forces started an offensive against the DAESH terrorist group on Thursday in the region around Mosul with air cover from the US-led coalition, pushing the militants out of several villages, according to a military statement read on state TV.

The offensive is the first phase of an operation that the Iraqi government aims to conclude this year with the capture of Mosul, the largest city in the north of the country.

An Iraqi offensive to recapture it, backed by air strikes and advisers from a US-led coalition, would be the biggest counterattack ever mounted against the group.

Some US and Iraqi officials have said it may not be possible to retake it this year, despite repeated vows by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi, who vowed that 2016 would be the year of “final victory” against DAESH in Iraq.


TRTWorld and agencies