The U.S. and Iraq took a big step closer to a showdown with Islamic State fighters Wednesday as the Pentagon announced that 615 more U.S. soldiers are heading to Iraq in anticipation of the battle to liberate Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city.
The move pushes the number of American troops in the country above 5,000 for the first time since 2011, when President Obama announced what he said was the end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq.
Over 5,200 American troops will be on the ground working alongside Iraqi and coalition forces in the final push to drive out the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL. Mosul and the Syrian city of Raqqa are the two biggest cities held by the violent jihadi group that swept across the region two years ago.
The influx of troops will likely be the last before U.S.-backed Iraqi and Kurdish forces launch the long-awaited assault on Mosul. On Wednesday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi characterized the additional U.S. troops, who he stressed would serve only as advisers and trainers, as the “final increase” needed before operations can begin, likely in mid-October.
“We emphasize that the role of the trainers and advisers is not combat, but for training and consultation only,” Mr. al-Abadi said in a statement. “It is our troops who will liberate the land.”
Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said this month that all U.S. assets needed to support the Mosul operation would be in place by October — which could mean heavy fighting in Iraq while Americans head to the polls in early November.
Source : http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/sep/28/us-deploys-more-troops-to-iraq-for-showdown-with-i/