US forces help Iraqis build bridge on way to Mosul

US forces help Iraqis build bridge on way to Mosul

US forces help Iraqis build bridge on way to Mosul

Iraqi security forces wait for vehicles travelling to Mosul to fight against militants of Islamic State at an Iraqi army base in Camp Taji in Baghdad, February 21, 2016. REUTERS photo

A small group of U.S. troops helped Iraqi forces build a bridge across the Tigris River last week that will support Iraq’s campaign to retake Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a U.S. military spokesman said on July 28. 

This was the first time American forces accompanied the Iraqi army closer to the front lines of battle since U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said in April that they would be allowed to do so. Previously, advisers were limited to larger divisions further back from battlefields. 

Colonel Chris Garver, the U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, said the operation involved fewer than 10 U.S. troops. 

The American engineering team was sent on July 20 to assist a battalion of Iraqi soldiers install a floating bridge over the Tigris near Qayyara air base, recently retaken from ISIL by Iraqi forces, Garver said. 

The United States has conducted similar lower-level missions with Iraqi special operations forces and Kurdish peshmerga, but this was the first such mission with the Iraqi army, Garver said. 

“The use of the bridge connecting the west and east sides of the Tigris ... will greatly improve maneuverability and shorten lines of communication for the ISF [Iraqi security forces] as they prepare for the eventual assault to liberate Mosul,” Garver said. 

The bridge is the second to be installed by Iraqi security forces in their battle against ISIL. The first was in Ramadi last year. 

The United States has escalated its military role in Iraq and Syria over the past year to capitalize on gains against the militant group.