Mosul offensive on the horizon: Hundreds of US troops headed to Iraq
US troops in Iraq. (AFP/File)
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Stepping up its military campaign against Daesh, the United States will be sending hundreds more troops to assist Iraqi forces in a highly anticipated push on the city of Mosul, Daesh's largest stronghold, later this year.
US Defense Secretary Ash Carter made the announcement on Monday during a visit to Baghdad, where he met US commanders, as well as Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi.
Most of the 560 additional troops will work out of Qayara air base, which Iraqi forces recaptured from Daesh and plan to use as a staging ground for an offensive to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second biggest city.
Government forces said on Saturday they had recovered the air base, about 60 km (40 miles) from the northern city, with air support from the US-led military coalition.
“With these additional US forces I’m describing today, we’ll bring unique capability to the campaign and provide critical support to the Iraqi forces at a key moment in the fight,” Carter told a gathering of U.S. troops in Baghdad.
The new troops were “ready to come” and it would be a matter of “days and weeks, not months,” he said. However, there is still debate in Washington about the timing of a move on Mosul.
Some US and allied military and intelligence officials warn that aside from its elite counterterrorism force, the Iraqi military is not ready to take on Daesh militants in Mosul without significant assistance from the Kurdish Peshmerga and Shi’ite militias.
Moreover, Baghdad and Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region, do not appear to have agreed on a plan for Mosul, and any significant participation by Kurdish or Shia forces in a Mosul campaign, one US official said, “would create a whole new set of problems that the Abadi government is incapable of managing, or even mitigating.”
Editor's note: This article has been edited from the original.