A U.S. military official announced Monday that Washington’s allies have pledged to send 1,500 troops to Iraq to support Baghdad.
The head of the campaign against the Islamic State group, Lieutenant General James Terry, stated the 1,500 new troops will be in addition to more than 3,000 others already pledged by the Obama administration earlier this month.
According to a Pentagon statement Sunday, President Barack Obama has doubled the number of U.S. troops in Iraq.
“The commander in chief has authorized Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to deploy to Iraq up to 1,500 additional U.S. personnel over the coming months, in a non-combat role, to expand our advise and assist mission and initiate a comprehensive training effort for Iraqi forces,” the statement read.
Hagel is serving out the final stretch of his time as secretary of defense after resigning in late November. He is set to be replaced by Pentagon technocrat Ashton Carter.
According to the Pentagon, the deployments will coincide with plans to provide new training to 12 Iraqi military brigades, including three brigades from Iraqi Kurdistan.
“Ultimately, these Iraqi forces, when fully trained, will enable Iraq to better defend its citizens, its borders, and its interests against the threat of ISIL,” the statement read. ISIL is an acronym of the previous name of the Islamic State group, which has seized vast swathes of Iraq and neighboring Syria.
When the Islamic State group first launched its offensive in northern and western Iraq, Baghdad's U.S.-trained and supplied troops fled en masse – surrendering some cities after barely firing a shot.
The military “simply crumbled,” according to the BBC's Tom Esslemont.
Defense officials in Washington have blamed the previous Iraqi government for the disaster, and now claim Baghdad is better prepared to push back the militants.
An anonymous Obama administration official denied accusations of mission creep in a conversation with the New York Times.
“(Obama) made clear that we are not going to be putting U.S. men and women back into combat,” the official stated.
Announing the allied deployments Monday, Terry also boasted the Islamic State group is already “on the defense, trying to hold what they have gained,” though he conceded the militant organization isn't “on the ropes.”
“When you look at some places out in Anbar, it’s a little bit stalemated out there. And we’ve got some work to do,” he said in Kuwait, according to Reuters.
According to one anonymous defense official that spoke to AFP, many of the new U.S. troops will be bound for Anbar – a province in Iraq's west almost entirely occupied by the Islamic State group. Although forces loyal to Baghdad succeeded in beating back an offensive against one of their last outposts in the province late last month, some reports suggest the defense could be on the verge of collapse.
“We are facing a big dilemma, and will be massacred if the government (continues) to be like this,” a tribal leader from Anbar, Shalaan Namrawi, told Saudi Arabia's Al Arabiya news agency.
Namrawi's tribal militia and others are fighting alongside the Iraq army against the Islamic State group, but are complaining of being poorly equipped.
Many like Namrawi are now threatening to stop fighting, which could dramatically reduce the Iraqi government's firepower in the province.
Ahmed Dulaimi, Anbar's governor, warned, “If we lose Anbar, that means we will lose Iraq,” according to Al Jazeera. Terry's optimism that the Islamic State group has been degraded by U.S.-led airstrikes isn't shared by everyone.
Last week, embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad was reported as deriding U.S.-led airstrikes against the Islamic State group as neither “serious” nor “effective.”
“You can't end terrorism with aerial strikes,” Assad told French magazine Paris Match in an interview conducted in late November.