Obama Approves 450 More Troops for Iraq

President Barack Obama on Wednesday approved the deployment of 450 more American military trainers to Iraq, a cautious bid to reverse gains by the Islamic State (ISIS) group, AFP reports.

The White House said the forces will join an already 3,100-strong mission to "train, advise and assist" the Iraqi army and Sunni tribal fighters.

The new contingent will focus on wresting back control of provincial capital Ramadi.

ISIS seized the predominately Sunni city near Baghdad in May, punching a giant hole in Obama's strategy to "defeat and degrade" the jihadist group.

Obama has ruled out putting combat troops on the ground, instead offering air support, arms and training to an amalgam of disparate Iraqi forces.

There will now be "expedited delivery of essential equipment and materiel" for those tribal and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters — in coordination with the central government in Baghdad.

While senior Obama military and civilian aides indicate he "hasn't ruled out any additional steps," such as providing field advisors or personnel to call in airstrikes, they say the current strategy will remain in place, according to AFP.

"The president has made it clear that he will look at a range of different options," said Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes.

"Our overriding focus here is making sure that there is Iraqi capacity on the ground," he added.

The new training contingent will be based at Taqaddum Air Base, perched between jihadist-held Ramadi and Fallujah.

That puts U.S. non-combat troops within striking distance of Islamic State fighters, but officials say it also makes recruitment of Sunni tribal fighters easier.

"There is always a risk whenever we're in Iraq that we could be hit with indirect fire, as we have in the past, that we could be attacked," said senior Pentagon official Elissa Slotkin.

"We felt like we could sufficiently mitigate the risk to make it worthwhile to go out there to perform this important mission."

Iraq's Sunni Muslim community — likely to be key to victory in Anbar — has yet to join the fight against Islamic State in large numbers.

Despite the jihadist group making advances in recent weeks, Obama recently described the loss of Ramadi as a tactical setback, while insisting the war against the jihadist group is not being lost.

"I don't think we're losing," Obama told The Atlantic days after the Iraqi city was overrun.

AFP contributed to this report.

Source: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/196571

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