The United States on Wednesday announced it was sending 450 additional troops to train and assist Iraqi forces to help them win back territories lost to Islamic State (IS).
These troops will be based at Al Taqaddum Air Base, near Habbaniyah in Anbar province, to help Iraqi security and tribal forces retake the Ramadi and Fallujah corridor. These new steps were taken in consultation with the Iraqi government, said deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes on Wednesday.
“This decision does not represent a change in mission, but rather adds another location to conduct similar activities in Iraq,” the Pentagon said separately.The US has 3,550 troops in Iraq now, all in training and advisory roles, starting middle of 2014 when IS fighters stood within striking distance of Baghdad.
In this file photo, a fighter with Islamic State group takes control of a traffic intersection in the northern city of Mosul, Iraq. A year after the Islamic State group seized the city of Mosul and spread south, effectively dividing the country and plunging it into chaos, Iraq is struggling with a staggering political, economic and humanitarian crisis it may take generations to recover from. (AP Photo)
The US and coalition trainers have been so far based at four previously-established sites in Al-Asad, Besmaya, Erbil, and Taji — Al Taqaddum will be the fifth.
US President Barrack Obama ended the Iraq war in 2011, as promised during his presidential campaign, and the last US troops left for home in December that year.
But three year later, he was forced to start sending them back, at Iraq’s request, in view of lightning advances by IS, including the fall of Mosul. IS had taken many Indian hostages then. 39 of whom remain missing. One of the survivors has said they may have been shot, according to news reports.
US strategy had hinged on retaking Mosul initially. But with Iraq forces displaying continued lack of preparedness, and the will to fight, according to some US officials, the new plans focuses on Ramadi.
Obama’s IS strategy has been criticised by hawks such as Republican senator John McCain as ineffective, having failed to stop the sunni militants.