US President Barack Obama has authorized Defense Secretary Ash Carter to provide a modest increase in additional U.S. personnel to be deployed to Iraq in a noncombat role, Defense Department officials announced today.
Officials said Obama has authorized up to 450 additional U.S. personnel to deploy to Iraq to expand the U.S. advise-and-assist mission at Taqaddum Air Base in support of the Iraqi government.
Planning, Integration, Support Role
The intent is to provide personnel to assist with planning, integration and support of Iraqi security forces and tribal forces as they fight to retake the Ramadi and Fallujah corridor, officials said.
Speaking to Pentagon reporters, DoD spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said the presence at Taqaddum Air Base will serve two purposes: to provide immediate advice and assistance to the 8th Iraqi Army Division and to begin to facilitate the connections between Anbar province’s Sunni tribes and the Iraqi government and military.
Facilitating these connections will have two “downstream effects,” Warren said.
“We believe it will motivate additional Sunni personnel to simply join the Iraqi security forces,” he said. “No. 2, we believe it will help us identify Sunni militia tribal elements that, when all the conditions are right, we will be able to train.”
No Change in Mission
This decision does not represent a change in mission, officials said. Rather, they explained, it adds another location for the Defense Department to conduct similar activities in more areas in Iraq as U.S. forces continue to perform in an advisory, training and supporting role. U.S. forces are not conducting offensive ground combat operations, they added.