Updated: June 10, 2015 9:35:17 pm
The Obama administration is about to announce the US will send more troops to Iraq to boost the training of local forces, officials said on Wednesday, in a response to recent setbacks at the hands of the Islamic State and Baghdad’s appeals for more help.
Fewer than 500 troops are to be sent, said the officials, who were not authorized to provide the information by name in advance of the announcement and spoke only on condition of anonymity.
Under the expected plan, the number of US training sites in Iraq would increase from four to five, enabling a larger number of Iraqis to join the fight against the Islamic militant group. Most of the fighters would be Sunni tribal volunteers.
The decision comes just days after President Barack Obama met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on the sidelines of a summit of major economies in Germany.
The plan does not signal a shift in strategy, and questions remain about the Shiite-led Iraqi government’s ability to recruit more fighters to be trained, especially among Sunni tribesmen. Obama on Monday said he had called on Abadi to allow more Sunnis to fight the Islamic State
“We’ve got more training capacity than we have recruits,” Obama said.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Tuesday that as more security forces are trained, Iraq will need more recruits to take their place. “We would like to see them do more of that,” Earnest said.
Obama has ruled out sending US ground combat forces to Iraq. There now are nearly 3,100 US troops there in training, advising, security and other support roles. The US also is flying bombing missions as well as aerial reconnaissance and intelligence-gathering missions against the Islamic State’s forces, while counting on Iraqi ground troops to retake lost territory.
At a Capitol Hill news conference on Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said sending several hundred military advisers to Iraq “is a step in the right direction.” But he repeatedly criticized Obama for not having “an overarching strategy” for dealing with the Islamic State.
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