Obama OKs 450 troops for Iraq train­ing mission

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY AN­DREW BEATTY

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.

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