Up to 1,300 more U.S. troops, including approximately 1,000 soldiers from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, will begin to deploy to Iraq in late January, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said today.
“Their mission will be to train, advise and assist Iraqi security forces,” Kirby told reporters at a Pentagon briefing. “This deployment is part of the additional 1,500 troops that the president authorized in November.”
The roughly 300 troops who are deploying in the same timeframe as the 82nd Airborne group will be from multiple services, the admiral said. Their contributions will be in “largely enabler capabilities,” Kirby added.
Changes in Location, Not Mission
“What makes this [deployment] different is simply the geography,” Kirby explained. The advising teams will operate in the Anbar area and north of Baghdad, he said.
Kirby added, “But they’re still going to be on a base and advising and assisting at the same higher headquarters level, [like] the 12 teams that are already there are doing.”
While the American troops will be interacting directly with Iraqi troops, the admiral emphasized that those interactions will be occurring in a training environment and not out in the field.
The overall mission is still designed around training 12 Iraqi brigades, including nine from the Iraqi security force and three from the Peshmerga, Kirby said.
Role of Airstrikes
While the training mission is ongoing, the U.S. military continues to conduct airstrikes at an appropriate pace and with an appropriate sense of precision and urgency, Kirby said.
“It’s twofold,” he said. “It’s to go after them where we know we can and we should, but also to support Iraqi security forces on the ground.”
Kirby mentioned a “big spike” in airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant over the last week.
“That was to help prepare the Peshmerga for the operations that they conducted around Mount Sinjar, which, while they’re still ongoing, have proven to be promising, so far,” he said.
“It’s not just a matter of more or less,” the admiral added. “It’s got to be appropriate to the threat and to the operations on the ground.”