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President Barack Obama on Friday authorized the deployment of up to 1,500 more troops to Iraq in an expansion of the American fight against ISIS militants, the Pentagon said.
If all 1,500 are deployed, it would almost double the American presence in Iraq. The troops will serve in a non-combat role, expanding the U.S. mission of training and advising Iraqi forces, the Pentagon said.
That will include helping Iraqi forces in the highly volatile section of Anbar Province mostly under ISIS control, sources told NBC News. The sites that the additional troops will operate out of will be “where Iraqi security forces are taking the fight to the enemy,” Rear Adm. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said at a media briefing Friday.
A little less than half of the additional troops will be responsible for advising, while about 870 will be tasked with the “hands-on” training of troops, Kirby said. Coalition partners will also assist in the training — financially and by sending their own additional troops, Kirby said.
The U.S. troops will start arriving in Iraq “as soon as this month,” Kirby said, and the training would take about eight months. But Kirby clarified that the Iraqi troops weren’t being trained for a specific campaign, and would continue to combat ISIS “at the same time” of the training.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel recommended the additional troops at the request of the Iraqi government, Kirby said.
U.S. Central Command will also establish centers to train 12 Iraqi brigades, nine from the Iraqi army and three from the Kurdish security forces, the Pentagon said.
Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif. and the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, gave a qualified welcome to reports that Obama was planning to ask for more money for the fight.
“I remain concerned that the president’s strategy to defeat ISIL is insufficient,” he said, using another acronym for ISIS. “I would urge the president to reconsider his strategy and clearly explain how this additional funding supports a new direction. Such clarity is more likely to find swift congressional approval.”
“We need the support of congress to authorize the request,” Kirby said.