BAGHDAD — The U.S. will deploy an additional 560 troops to Iraq within the next few weeks, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Monday.
Carter made the announcement during an unannounced visit to Baghdad, saying the troops will deploy for infrastructure and logistical support at Qayara airfield south of Mosul. The troops have already received their warning orders to deploy.
Iraqi forces recaptured the strategically-located base on Saturday from ISIS. The airfield could prove a critical asset in the impending operation to wrest Mosul from ISIS' grip.
"We need to move to this place so we (will) be as close to the fighting as we have been in the Euphrates River Valley fights," Lt. Gen. Sean B. MacFarland, head of American forces in Iraq, told reporters after Carter's announcement.
The fight for Mosul was described by one senior defense official ahead of Carter's trip as "the fight for Iraq... the culminating battle."
President Barack Obama has approved the additional deployment announced Monday, which will bring the total number of U.S. servicemen in Iraq to around 4,600.
Carter said he will meet later this month with his coalition counterparts in Washington D.C. to discuss the ways to boost their contributions and speed up the campaign. He also acknowledged that the effort to defeat ISIS is multifaceted and
"There’s a lot of work to do here and it’s not just U.S. work. Its not just military work," Carter said. "In order to make sure that the defeat of ISIL is lasting and some of the damage that they’ve done in the course of their barbaric ruling of some of these cities is repaired."