The US Defense Department on Thursday provided details for the additional service members President Barack Obama announced will deploy to Iraq as part of the strategy against the Islamic State (IS), a Sunni extremist group previously known as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
“I think you’re going to start to see these additional 475 arrive in the coming days. Probably over the next week or so, you’ll … see them start to arrive,” said Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby.
Kirby said the six assessment teams now in Iraq will transition to an advise-and-assist mission, and added: “They will be reinforced by additional troops as the president announced. The level at which they will be providing advice and assistance is at the brigade or higher headquarters level.”
The United States will continue to man and support the joint operations centers in Irbil and Baghdad, Kirby said, and there will continue to be an advise-and-assist role for those manning those joint operations centers.
The admiral emphasized that the advise-and-assist teams are not intended to have a combat role, such as foot patrols or any similar types of missions.
“I think the president was clear that we’re going to intensify our efforts inside Iraq,” Kirby said. “The direction we got from the commander in chief was very clear. We’re going to be more aggressive in supporting the Iraqi security forces on the ground.”
Stressing that the United States is “eager” to work with Iraq’s “new unity government,” Kirby said: “All of the signs are pointing to a much more inclusive political process that’s responsive to all Iraqis, to include a more responsible management of the Iraqi security forces. The vectors are pointing in the right way.”
Kirby also discussed training and equipping properly vetted elements of the moderate Syrian armed opposition, and said that Defense Department officials are working with members of Congress to try to get the funds approved and appropriated.
“Obviously, we need that money to be able to move forward on this particular train-and-equip program,” Kirby said, noting it a priority for Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
by RTT Staff Writer
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