WASHINGTON (AFP) – President Barack Obama on Friday unveiled plans to send 1,500 additional troops to Iraq to help Baghdad government forces strike back at Islamic State militants, roughly doubling the number of US soldiers in the country.
The move marked a deepening US commitment in the open-ended war against the IS group, three months since American aircraft launched air strikes against the Sunni extremists.
The move extends the US training and advising mission to new areas as Iraqi and Kurdish forces prime themselves to recapture ground lost to the IS group, including in the volatile Anbar province in the west where the Iraqi army has been on the retreat.
The reinforcements were “part of our strategy for strengthening partners on the ground” but the troops would have a “non-combat role,” the White House said in a statement.
The United States already is carrying out air strikes against the IS group in Iraq and Syria but officials insisted the decision did not signal “mission creep” towards another all-out ground war.
“They will not be introduced into combat,” a senior administration official told reporters.
The US forces will be carrying out the same mission that has been outlined from the start – to help the Iraqi forces on the ground, the official said.
“The mission is not changing at all for our service members,” the official said. “We are adding personnel to better carry out the mission.”