Defense Secretary Ash Carter and one of his senior commanders offered some details about the role of the 560 additional U.S. troops the Defense Department announced yesterday will deploy to Iraq to support Iraqi forces combating the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Carter spoke yesterday in Baghdad to reporters traveling with him. The commander of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, Army Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, joined Carter for the news briefing.
MacFarland told reporters the troops will serve a support role, “to help expand the base at Qayyarah West airfield into a node that can support the Iraqi security forces as they move forward with the Mosul operation.” He added that some of the troops will help provide “a security envelope” for the force.
Carter noted the airfield is one of two objectives — the other being the town of Makhmur in Erbil province — “that we set some months ago as places from which the Iraqi security forces would position themselves for the southernmost envelopment of Mosul.”
He added, “The whole idea is to envelop Mosul from the north and the south, and then collapse ISIL’s control over it, as has been done in other cities — Hit, Rutbah, Fallujah, Ramadi, and so forth.”
Achieving ‘Important Results’
Carter said Iraqi forces have achieved important results against ISIL, aided by the U.S.-led coalition. “It’s essential that this work continue. It’s not done yet. We still have important work to do here in Iraq and also in Syria,” he said.
The secretary noted that “as we expel ISIL from the major urban areas of Iraq, which the Iraqi security forces with our help are in the process of doing, there will … need to be a larger effort to secure the country.”