Obama weighs plan to deploy more troop ad­vi­sors to Iraq

The U.S. forces would aid the fight to break Is­lamic State’s grip on An­bar prov­ince.

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - By W.J. Hen­ni­gan wil­liam.hen­ni­gan @la­times.com

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Obama is con­sid­er­ing a Pen­tagon plan to es­tab­lish a new train­ing base and send about 500 ad­di­tional U.S. troops to ad­vise Iraqi se­cu­rity forces in the battle against Is­lamic State mil­i­tants, ac­cord­ing to U.S. of­fi­cials.

If ap­proved, the plan will mark a deep­en­ing U.S. com­mit­ment to the nearly year­long fight against the Sunni ex­trem­ists, who have gained ground through mil­i­tary vic­to­ries in re­cent weeks.

Obama has been weigh­ing the es­ca­la­tion of U.S. in­volve­ment while trav­el­ing to Ger­many for a meet­ing with for­eign lead­ers, in­clud­ing Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter Haider Abadi.

How­ever, the pres­i­dent has not yet made a de­ci­sion, of­fi­cials said.

Un­der the plan, Amer­i­can mil­i­tary per­son­nel could set up at a new base in em­bat­tled An­bar prov­ince or deploy to four bases across Iraq where trainees are taught about tac­ti­cal or­ga­ni­za­tion, lo­gis­tics and in­tel­li­gence to boost their abil­ity to counter Is­lamic State fighters.

“Th­ese are valid cour­ses of ac­tion that are be­ing con­sid­ered,” said one of­fi­cial, who asked not to be named be­cause he was not au­tho­rized to speak pub­licly on the mat­ter.

The U.S. force in Iraq now to­tals about 3,100 troops, who are ad­vis­ing, train­ing and pro­vid­ing base se­cu­rity.

Of­fi­cials said the ad­di­tional ad­vi­sors would not be ac­com­pa­ny­ing Iraqi troops on com­bat op­er­a­tions, in keep­ing with Obama’s vow to not send ground troops back to Iraq.

The new troops would be ex­pected to help the Iraqis break Is­lamic State’s grip on sprawl­ing An­bar prov­ince, which is home to much of the coun­try’s Sunni pop­u­la­tion.

The fall of Ra­madi, the cap­i­tal of An­bar, was a re­minder of the larger dis­inte- gra­tion of the mil­i­tary last June when Is­lamic State forces seized the north­ern city of Mo­sul and other parts of Iraq that they still hold.

Other gov­ern­ments and coali­tion forces have sent hun­dreds of ad­di­tional per­son­nel to train Iraqi brigades, but lit­tle progress has been made to dis­lodge the mil­i­tants.

In ad­di­tion, Iraq has seen a sharp in­crease in car bomb­ings and sui­cide at­tacks in re­cent weeks, a tac­tic the mil­i­tants ap­pear to be us­ing to avoid ex­pos­ing them­selves to air at­tacks by the U.S. and its al­lies.

But the fail­ure to re­cruit and pro­duce higher-qual­ity Iraqi troops has frus­trated U.S. mil­i­tary of­fi­cials, as well as the pres­i­dent. The Pen­tagon said 8,920 Iraqis have com­pleted train­ing, with 2,601 more mak­ing their way through the pro­gram.

“We don’t yet have a com­plete strat­egy,” Obama told re­porters Mon­day, “be­cause it re­quires com­mit­ments on the part of the Iraqis, as well as about how re­cruit­ment takes place, how that train­ing takes place.”

Ah­mad al-Rubaye AFP/Getty Images

IRAQI Shi­ite fighters fan out in Baiji to fight along­side gov­ern­ment troops seek­ing to re­take the strate­gic town from the Sunni ex­trem­ist group Is­lamic State.

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