US to send 560 more troops to aid Iraq’s anti-ISIL fight
BAGHDAD – Agence France-PressePentagon chief Ashton Carter said July 11 that Washington will deploy 560 additional troops to aid Iraq’s fight to retake Mosul from jihadists, further deepening U.S. military involvement in the country.
The announcement, which will bring the total authorized number of American military personnel in Iraq to more than 4,600, came two days after Baghdad announced the recapture of a base south of Mosul that is seen as an important step toward the eventual battle for the city.
Iraq’s second city Mosul has been under the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) control since June 2014, when the jihadists overran large parts of Iraq, carrying out atrocities including summary execution-style killings, mass kidnappings and rape.
ISIL also holds territory in neighboring Syria, but has lost significant ground in both countries, and Carter wants to highlight successes, even as the jihadists have struck back with devastating attacks in Iraq and abroad.
“I am pleased to report today that... we agreed for the United States to bolster Iraqi efforts to isolate and pressure Mosul by deploying 560 additional troops,” Carter said at the Baghdad airport following meetings with the Iraqi premier and defense minister.
U.S. President Barack Obama made ending the US’s nearly nine-year war in Iraq a centerpiece of his presidency, but Washington has been drawn ever deeper back into the country by the war against ISIL.
“The additional troops will provide a range of support for Iraqi security forces, including infrastructure and logistical capabilities at the airfield near Qayyarah,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced July 9 that Iraqi forces had recaptured the Qayyarah airbase, some 60 kilometers south of Mosul, which ISIL seized in June 2014.
The base “will become a vital springboard for the (Iraqi forces’] offensive into Mosul,” the Pentagon said.
Earlier in the day, Carter held meetings with Abadi as well as Defense Minister Khalid al-Obeidi.
“Let me begin... by expressing the condolences of myself and the United States for the terrorist attacks against the people of Iraq in recent weeks,” Carter told Abadi on his fourth visit to the country since becoming defense secretary in 2015.
ISIL has carried out bloody attacks against civilians as they lose ground, including a bombing in Baghdad earlier this month that killed 292 people, one of the deadliest to ever hit the country.