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Obama makes case for more USA involvement in Iraq

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U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter made the announcement during an unannounced visit to Baghdad on April 18 to discuss additional military assistance that the United States could provide Iraqi forces.

Speaking to US troops at the airport in Baghdad, Carter also said that the USA will send an additional rocket-assisted artillery system to Iraq.

The officials said the advisers will not be on the actual front lines, but USA and Iraqi commanders want them to move closer to the fighting so they can provide timely tactical guidance to the Iraqis as they prepare for the long-awaited assault on Mosul, seized by the Islamic State in 2014. The remainder would include some trainers, security forces for the advisers, and more maintenance teams for the Apaches.

HIMARS missile systems have already been positioned to defend US troops at the Taqqadam airbase in Iraq’s southern Anbar province, and another system in Jordan last month fired into Syria to support a USA -backed militia group against ISIS.

The announcement would bring the authorized force level in Iraq to 4,087 troops, up from the previous 3,870.

Of those 11,000 attack sorties, over 8,000 were flown by USA aircraft.

Last December, U.S. officials were trying to carefully negotiate new American assistance with Iraqi leaders who often have a different idea of how to wage war.

– President Barack Obama in an interview with CBS after the US agreed to deploy more than 200 additional troops to Iraq and to send eight Apache helicopters for the first time into the fight against the Islamic State group.

USA officials say the US will send 200 more troops and a number of Apache helicopters to Iraq to assist in the fight against the Islamic State group. Earlier, Obama had been saying that Mosul would fall this year.

U.S. President Barack Obama says he expects that by the end of the year conditions will be in place for Iraqi troops to eventually recapture the northern city of Mosul from Islamic State militants.

US officials have also said previously that the number of special operations forces in Syria would be increased at some point, but Carter did not mention that in his comments.

“This will put Americans closer to the action”, he said. The additional troops and weapons systems “are capabilities that will continue the process of accelerating the defeat” of ISIS, he said, adding that “I’m very comfortable our operational approach is the right one”. US-trained Iraqi forces last week retook the Hit region backed by war planes from a US-led coalition. That will expose American troops to greater risk but also permit them, officials hope, to more effectively coach Iraqi troops during what is expected to be a punishing battle. As many as 1 million civilians remain in Mosul, and thousands of Islamic State fighters are there. But the aircraft are back on the table during this visit and could be more helpful in the Mosul fight.

However it will increase their exposure to mortar and rocket fire. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford first hinted toward the start of the operation when he said “operations against Mosul have already started” during a joint press briefing February 29 with Secretary of Defense Carter.

But a U.S. official said Tuesday that Washington has actually committed $900 million in financial and material aid to the Kurdish Peshmerga.

Lahur Talabani, director of the Kurdish Regional Government’s intelligence agency, tweeted, “We thank the USA government for their commitment & support to our fearless peshmerga forces who have been fighting ISIS on the world’s behalf”.

The Pentagon will also provide up to $415 million to Kurdish peshmerga military units, who have played an important role in pushing back Islamic State in northern Iraq. Even more remote is a strategy for postwar governance in Mosul and other Sunni-populated areas that would supplant the Islamic State with something the local population would support.

Carter’s announcement, made during an unannounced visit to Iraq, is the latest in a steady drumbeat of United States escalations in Iraq and Syria, which now occur on a near-weekly basis.

The additional troops will not be sent to do the fighting as emphasized by President Obama.

The deployment of the additional troops was welcome, McCain said, but the piecemeal dispatch of USA forces to conflict zones was a tactic that “rarely wins wars, but could certainly lose one”. Missing is not just adequate numbers of forces, but also funding, political leadership and that most elusive of goods in the Middle East: a workable vision of what happens the day after the bad guys are dispatched. The Pentagon has admitted having nearly 5,000 troops in Iraq for months, but didn’t count many, listing them as “temporary” even though they have no end date for their deployment.

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