U.S. defense officials said on April 18 that Washington will deploy about 200 additional troops, mostly as advisers for Iraqi troops as they advance towards Mosul, the largest Iraqi city still under Islamic State control.
"As we see the Iraqis willing to fight and gaining ground, let's make sure that we are providing them more support," U.S. President Barack Obama said in an interview with CBS News.
"My expectation is that by the end of the year, we will have created the conditions whereby Mosul will eventually fall," Obama said.
|U.S. Defence Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the closing ceremony of a U.S.-Philippine military exercise dubbed ''Balikatan'' (shoulder to shoulder) in Quezon City, Metro Manila April 15, 2016.
The United States has also authorized the use of Apache attack helicopters to help the Iraqis as they can provide quicker air support and precision fire.
The advisers will accompany Iraqi units of about 2,500 troops moving closer to the front lines of battle. Until now, the advisers were limited to larger divisions of about 10,000 troops located further back from the battlefield.
The change will allow them to offer quicker advice to Iraqi troops as they try to retake Mosul, likely facing stiff resistance from an entrenched enemy. But it could also leave the U.S. advisers more vulnerable to enemy mortars and artillery.
"This will put Americans closer to the action," U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said. "Their whole purpose is to be able to help those forces respond in a more agile way."
The decision to enlarge the U.S. military force was made in close concert with Iraqi authorities, said Carter, who met U.S. commanders and Iraqi officials including Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on a visit to Baghdad.
Iraq is engulfed in a political crisis over anti-corruption reforms that is crippling state institutions and threatening to slow the campaign against the militants.
The increase raises the authorized troop level in Iraq to 4,087, not including special operations personnel, some logistics workers and troops on temporary rotations.
The Pentagon will also provide up to US$415 million to Kurdish peshmerga military units, who have played an important role in pushing back Islamic State in northern Iraq. Part of that funding will likely be spent on basics like food, said Lieutenant General Sean MacFarland, head of the U.S.-led coalition battling Islamic State.