ARLINGTON, Va. — Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced today that 560 additional U.S. troops will be deployed for support such as “infrastructure and logistical capabilities” in the effort to retake Mosul from the Islamic State.
The Pentagon said Carter met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi this morning in Baghdad to talk about the next steps in the campaign.
“With the retaking of Qayyarah West airfield, the Iraqi Security Forces have once again demonstrated a serious will to fight,” Carter said. “I congratulate them on their recent successes and reaffirm that the United States, along with our coalition partners, will continue to do all we can to support Iraq’s effort to serve ISIL a lasting defeat.”
Abadi vowed late last month, after celebrating the clearance of ISIS from Fallujah, that “we will raise the Iraqi flag in Mosul soon.” The government has talked about retaking Mosul for a long time but a clear timetable hasn’t been laid out.
Iraqi forces took Qayyarah airbase on the way to Mosul this weekend, reportedly finding that ISIS fighters had fled. Abadi called the advance “important for the liberation of Mosul.”
The additional U.S. troops, approved by President Obama on the recommendation of Carter, “will provide a range of support for Iraqi Security Forces, including infrastructure and logistical capabilities at the airfield near Qayyarah,” according to a release from the Pentagon, noting that the airfield “will become a vital springboard for the ISF offensive into Mosul.”
Coalition troops will keep giving “enabler support” to Kurdish Peshmerga forces who will be driving toward Mosul from the north.
“At every step in this campaign, we have generated and seized additional opportunities to hasten ISIL’s lasting defeat,” Carter said. “These additional U.S. forces will bring unique capabilities to the campaign and provide critical enabler support to Iraqi forces at a key moment in the fight.”
The Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Agency has also been directed to give additional assistance to Baghdad against IED attacks after nearly 300 Iraqis were killed in a July 3 blast at a bustling shopping mall in Karrada district.
At the NATO summit in Poland this weekend, Obama acknowledged the assessment that as ISIS “loses territory and the fraud of the caliphate becomes more obvious, they are going to start resorting to more traditional terrorist tactics.”
“They can’t govern. They can’t deliver anything meaningful to the people whose territory they can control. The one thing they know how to do is kill,” he said.
“…The liberation of Fallujah got a little bit lost in the news, but that’s a big town, and with our support, the counter-ISIL coalition support, the Iraqi government was able to move through there quickly.”
House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), reacting to the troop level announcement, stressed that “the war against ISIS and Islamic extremists cannot be won by inches, and I am concerned that operational needs in Iraq and Syria are taking a back seat to troop levels the White House finds politically palatable.”
“Added to the President’s Afghanistan announcement last week, the United States will now be deploying thousands more troops than we have budgeted for in the president’s budget request. Those deployments can only be fully supported through a supplemental budget request,” Thornberry said. “I look forward to reviewing the president’s request when he sends it to Congress, as I believe he now must.”