By Robert Burns, Associated Press
“These forces will be primarily to enable Iraqi security forces and also (Kurdish) Peshmerga in the operations to isolate and collapse ISIL’s control over Mosul, but also to protect and expand Iraqi security forces’ gains elsewhere in Iraq,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter told reporters Wednesday. The Peshmerga are Kurdish militia fighters who are generally among the most proficient ground forces in Iraq but whose role is politically sensitive there.
Carter said the extra Americans would perform multiple roles at multiple locations, including at Qaraya West air base south of Mosul, where they will be building up the base to make it a hub for Iraq forces, and at al-Asad air base in Anbar province more than 200 miles away, where they will strengthen supply lines for the movement of supplies north toward Mosul.
Obama approved the deployment, which Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said would total 615 troops who would begin moving out “very soon.” Although the Americans are not to participate directly in combat, they may in some cases move forward with Iraqi combat forces and could face IS attacks.
There were 4,565 U.S. forces in Iraq as of Wednesday, according to the Pentagon. That number does not include as many as 1,500 troops who are there on temporary duty or are not counted for other bookkeeping reasons.
Carter underscored the potential risks to all U.S. troops involved in the campaign.
“We’re in a support role, but I need to make clear once again: American forces combatting ISIL in Iraq are in harm’s way,” he said. “No one should be in any doubt about that.”
Davis said most of the new U.S. troops will do logistics and maintenance, others will provide expanded intelligence and surveillance for the Mosul operation and …