President Obama has decided to add 217 more U.S. troops to fight in Iraq, raising the total number now serving in the country to just over 4,000. The AP reports:
Of the additional troops, most would be Army special forces, who have been used throughout the anti-Islamic State campaign to advise and assist the Iraqis. The remainder would include some trainers, security forces for the advisers, and maintenance teams for the Apaches.
The decisions reflect weeks of discussions with commanders and Iraqi leaders, and a decision by President Barack Obama to increase the authorized troop level in Iraq by 217 forces – or from 3,870 to 4,087. The advise-and-assist teams – made up of about a dozen troops each accompanied by security forces – would embed with Iraqi brigades and battalion, likely putting them closer to the front lines and at greater risk from mortars and rocket fire.
In addition to these advise-and-assist teams we are also sending Apache helicopters. The goal of this increase in troops is to take Mosul from ISIS. ISIS took control of the city in June 2014. The AP reports the U.S. will also be involved in operations to take Raqqa, the capital of the Islamic State, which is located in Syria. Raqqa is about 200 km from Dabiq, the city where ISIS adherents believe they will have a final apocalyptic confrontation with their enemies.
Over the weekend a spokesman for the U.S. military said ISIS had lost nearly half its strength, or about 25,000 fighters, as a result of ongoing bombing campaign:
Col Warren said: ‘Much like a boxer, Daesh [Islamic State] has taken several hard blows to the mid-section. We believe the knees are getting weak, and the head is starting to drop, and they are beginning to feel the effect of the exceptional pressure we’ve placed on them over 20 months.’
He said 600 fighters had been killed in the past three weeks alone, and recent precision drone strikes and covert Special Forces missions to take out senior leaders had left the extremists ‘paranoid and in chaos’.
Strikes on IS-held oilfields had seen its cash flow slashed by a third – leading to a 50 per cent pay cut for its fighters – and, with the help of 650 RAF strikes, the group had been forced to flee from 40 per cent of territory it once held in northern Iraq.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter was in Baghdad Monday to discuss the coming attack on Mosul.