President Barack Obama said in an interview broadcast on Monday that the United States is providing more support to Iraq as its military moves to take back territory from ISIS, and he expects the city of Mosul will be retaken eventually.
"As we see the Iraqis willing to fight and gaining ground, let’s make sure that we are providing them more support," Obama said in an interview with CBS News.
U.S. officials announced in Baghdad on Monday the United States will deploy about 200 additional troops, mostly as advisers for Iraqi troops as they advance toward Mosul, the largest Iraqi city still under ISIS control.
The increase raises the authorized U.S. troop level in Iraq to 4,087, not including special operations personnel, some logistics workers and troops on temporary rotations.
"We’re not doing the fighting ourselves," Obama said, "but when we provide training, when we provide special forces who are backing them up, when we are gaining intelligence, working with the coalitions that we have, what we’ve seen is that we can continually tighten the noose" on ISIS.
"My expectation is that by the end of the year, we will have created the conditions whereby Mosul will eventually fall," Obama said.
The United States will send more troops to Iraq, potentially putting them closer to the frontlines to advise Iraqi forces in the war against ISIS militants.
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter made the announcement on Monday during a visit to Baghdad during which he met U.S. commanders, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, and Iraqi Defence Minister Khaled al-Obeidi.
The Pentagon will also provide up to $415 million to Kurdish peshmerga military units.
Monday’s announcement is the move in the past several months by the United States to step up its campaign against ISIS. U.S. special forces are also deployed in Iraq and Syria as part of the campaign.
Most of the new military advisers are expected to be army special forces, as is the case with the approximately 100 advisers now in Iraq.
The advisers will be allowed to accompany smaller Iraqi units of about 2,500 troops that are closer to the frontlines of battle, whereas now they are limited to larger divisions of about 10,000 troops located further from the battlefield.
That will allow the U.S. military to offer quicker and more nimble advice to Iraqi troops as they try to retake Mosul, the largest Iraqi city still under Islamic State control.
But by placing them closer to the conflict, it could leave them more vulnerable to enemy mortars and artillery.
The United States has also authorized the use of Apache attack helicopters to support Iraqi forces in retaking Mosul, Carter said. The United States had originally offered the Apaches to the Iraqi government in December. The Iraqis did not take up the offer then but did not rule out their use.
The United States will also deploy an additional long-range rocket artillery unit to support Iraqi ground forces in the battle for Mosul, Carter said. There are two such batteries already in place in Iraq.
Source: REUTERS, April 19