This story has been updated.
The Pentagon announced Friday that it would send up to 1,500 more U.S. troops to help advise and train Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State terrorists.
Just days after taking a bruising in the midterm election, President Barack Obama is doubling down on his limited mission against ISIL in Iraq, where 1,400 U.S. troops are currently serving in an advise and assist role. These new troops will also “initiate a comprehensive training effort for Iraqi forces,” Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said. –too much advise and assist
“Some of them will start flowing in as soon as this month,” he said. “It’s going to take — for the building partner capacity, the training — it’s going to take us probably a couple of months, two to three months, to get the sites prepared and the regimen started. And then the training itself, we anticipate the training regime itself to take between six and seven months.
The troops will be in a non-combat role, though they will be close to the fight. But what’s significant is that they will deploy to locations outside of Baghdad and Irbil – including to areas in Sunni-dominated Anbar Province where ISIL fighters have taken over key cities like Fallujah and Ramadi.
The plan is to “establish several sites across Iraq that will accommodate the training of 12 Iraqi brigades, specifically nine Iraqi army and three Peshmerga brigades. These sites will be located in northern, western, and southern Iraq,” Kirby said.
The Obama administration is reevaluating the operation against ISIL in Iraq, where months of air strikes there and in neighboring Syria have seen little effect. These additional troops, and the 1,400 currently there, will not be calling in air strikes. President Barack Obama also requested an additional $5.6 billion for this new effort. And Kirby said coalition partners would contribute, not just in personnel but in dollars.
“The United States is not going to be responsible for funding this entire effort. We’re going to expect contributions from the government of Iraq and there’s going to be contributions expected from these coalition members,” Kirby said.
Congress must pass the request, which will come out of the Pentagon’s Overseas Contingency Operations fund.
In June, the Iraqi Army stunned top defense leaders when it allowed ISIL fighters to capture the northern city of Mosul.
“Yeah, we did spend a lot of money and effort training the Iraqi army, and when we left in 2011, we left them capable and competent to the threat that they faced. That opportunity they were given, the skills that they were provided, the leadership that they had were squandered by the Maliki government over the last three, three-and-a-half years. They weren’t properly led. They weren’t properly resourced. They weren’t kept properly trained. And that led — that and a lack of will, both political and military will at the top in some units, led to their dissolution in the face of ISIL earlier in the summer,” Kirby said.
“So we saw four or five divisions — and I think it was a surprise to us that they folded as quickly as they did, but not every one of them did. Not every division in the Iraqi army turned and ran. And even before — I mean, we’re talking about just getting this stood up. As we speak today, they are very much on the go after ISIL throughout the country, to include Anbar province. So they are making gains. It is slow. It is not steady every day, but they are making gains and they are fighting back.”