Obama OKs 450 troops for Iraq training mission
U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday approved the deployment of 450 more U.S. military trainers to Iraq, a cautious bid to reverse gains by the Islamic State group.
The White House said the forces will join an already 3,100-strong mission to “train, advise and assist” the Iraqi army as well as Sunni tribal fighters.
The new contingent will focus on efforts to wrest back control of provincial capital Ramadi.
Islamic State seized the predominately Sunni city near Baghdad in May, punching a giant hole in Obama’s strategy to “defeat and degrade” the jihadist group.
Obama has ruled out putting combat troops on the ground, fearing it may re-entangle U.S. forces in a war he fought hard to end.
Instead his administration has offered air support, arms and training to an amalgam of disparate Iraqi forces.
In addition to extra trainers, the White House announced there will also be “expe dited delivery of essential equipment and material” for those tribal and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters — in coordination with the central government in Baghdad.
While senior Obama military and civilian aides indicate he “hasn’t ruled out any additional steps,” such as providing field advisers or personnel to call in airstrikes, they say the current strategy will remain in place.
Fight for Anbar
The new U.S. training contingent will be based at Taqaddum Air Base, perched between jihadist-held Ramadi and Fallujah.
That puts U. S. non- combat troops within striking distance of Islamic State fighters, but officials say it also makes recruitment of Sunni tribal fighters easier.
Iraq’s Sunni Muslim community — likely to be key to victory in Anbar — has yet to join the fight against Islamic State in large numbers.