More troops to deploy to Iraq

FILE - In this Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014 file photo, President Barack Obama leaves after speaking about the economy, Iraq, and Ukraine, in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, before convening a meeting with his national security team on the militant threat in Syria and Iraq. Obama's summer fashion choice, not unprecedented among presidents - himself included - was the talk of social media, Thursday. Other presidents who have taken on tan include Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush and Dwight Eisenhower. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, file)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama authorized a broad expansion on Friday of the U.S. military mission in Iraq that will boost the total number of American troops there to about 3,100 and spread advisory teams and trainers to the north and west where fighting with Islamic State militants has been fierce.

The president’s decision to escalate the U.S. effort in Iraq comes just three days after a bruising American election and amid persistent arguments that more U.S. troops are needed to bolster the struggling Iraqi forces. In particular, there have been calls to send troops to the western Anbar province, where extremists have been slaughtering men, women and children.

Obama authorized the Pentagon to send 1,500 troops to Iraq in addition to the 1,600 previously allowed. He also is asking Congress for more than $5 billion to fund the fight. Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said the military will set up several training sites across Iraq to instruct 12 Iraqi brigades, and also establish two operations centers where small advisory teams can work with Iraqi forces at the headquarters and brigade levels.

A senior military official said one of those centers will be in Anbar Province, and that it is likely that the bulk of the additional troops will be in Iraq by the end of the year. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.

Kirby said the new changes were based on a request from the Iraqi officials, the assessment of military commanders on the progress that Iraq’s military has made in the fight and as part of a campaign plan “to defend key areas and go on the offensive against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,” another name for IS.

The U.S. troops will not be in combat roles but will do the training in protected locations around the country. Until now, U.S. troops have largely been confined to Baghdad and Irbil, including two operations centers in those cities.

The funding announcement is part of a $5.6 billion request to Congress and came just after Obama met with congressional leaders Friday. That funding would cover the overseas military operations and other military equipment and requirements to combat the Islamic State group militants, who have seized control of large swaths of Iraq and Syria.

The U.S. has been launching airstrikes on Islamic State group militants and facilities in Iraq and Syria for weeks, as part of an effort to give Iraqi forces the time and space to mount a more effective offensive. Early on, the Islamic State group gained ground across Iraq, as local Iraqi units threw down their weapons and fled or joined the insurgents.

Lately, however, with the aid of the U.S. strikes, IS has suffered a number of losses in Iraq, where it is fighting government forces, peshmerga and Shiite militias aided by Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah group.

Last week, Iraqi forces recaptured the town of Jurf al-Sakher. IS also lost Rabia, Mahmoudiyah and Zumar, a string of towns near the Syrian border, last month. Besieged Iraqi troops have also managed to maintain control of Iraq’s largest oil refinery outside the town of Beiji north of Baghdad, despite numerous attempts by the Islamic State group to capture it.

The $5.6 billion request was expected to be a top item on the agenda of Friday’s meeting between Obamaand congressional leaders. Official details are expected to be delivered to Congress Hill next week.

The funding comes on top of an earlier $58.6 billion request to cover overseas military operations in the war on terror. It’s expected to be addressed in the upcoming lame duck session of Congress. Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, the Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said Friday that he has “long been concerned that the president has underfunded our combat operations against terrorists.”

He said he will give the funding request fair consideration, but added, “I remain concerned that the president’s strategy to defeat ISIL is insufficient. I would urge the president to reconsider his strategy and clearly explain how this additional funding supports a new direction. Such clarity is more likely to find swift congressional approval.”

ISIL is one of several acronyms for the Islamic State.

WIVB.com provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s