The United States will send more troops to Iraq and will put them closer to the front lines of battle there to advise Iraqi forces in the war against Islamic State militants.
U.S. defense officials said on Monday that Washington will deploy about 200 additional troops, mostly as advisers for Iraqi troops as they advance towards Mosul, the largest Iraqi city still under Islamic State control.
“As we see the Iraqis willing to fight and gaining ground, let’s make sure that we are providing them more support,” U.S. President Barack Obama said in an interview with CBS News.
“My expectation is that by the end of the year, we will have created the conditions whereby Mosul will eventually fall,” Obama said.
The United States has also authorized the use of Apache attack helicopters to help the Iraqis as they can provide quicker air support and precision fire.
The advisers will accompany Iraqi units of about 2,500 troops moving closer to the front lines of battle. Until now, the advisers were limited to larger divisions of about 10,000 troops located further back from the battlefield.
The change will allow them to offer quicker advice to Iraqi troops as they try to retake Mosul, likely facing stiff resistance from an entrenched enemy. But it could also leave the U.S. advisers more vulnerable to enemy mortars and artillery.
“This will put Americans closer to the action,” U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said. “Their whole purpose is to be able to help those forces respond in a more agile way.”
The decision to enlarge the U.S. military force was made in close concert with Iraqi authorities, said Carter, who met U.S. commanders and Iraqi officials including Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on a visit to Baghdad.
Iraq is engulfed in a political crisis over anti-corruption reforms that is crippling state institutions and threatening to slow the campaign against the militants.
The increase raises the authorized troop level in Iraq to 4,087, not including special operations personnel, some logistics workers and troops on temporary rotations.
The Pentagon will also provide up to $415 million to Kurdish peshmerga military units, who have played an important role in pushing back Islamic State in northern Iraq. Part of that funding will likely be spent on basics like food, said Lieutenant General Sean MacFarland, head of the U.S.-led coalition battling Islamic State.
“Right now the peshmerga are not getting enough calories to keep them in the field,” MacFarland said.
The increase is the latest move by the United States, which invaded Iraq in 2003 to overthrow Saddam Hussein, to step up its campaign against the hardline Sunni jihadists.
Since December, Iraqi forces trained by the U.S. military and backed by coalition air strikes have taken back territory from Islamic State, which seized swathes of Iraq and Syria in 2014.
Some U.S. troops already in Iraq will be shifted to establishing logistics for Iraqi forces as they move towards Mosul, Carter said. These include supply lines, particularly important as Mosul is 400 km (250 miles) north of Baghdad.
Most of the new U.S. advisers, who will make up the bulk of the new troops, will be Army Special Forces, as are the about 100 advisers now in Iraq. The rest of the troops announced on Monday include support crew for the Apaches and security forces to protect the advisers.
The United States will also deploy an additional long-range rocket artillery unit to support Iraqi ground forces in the battle for Mosul, Carter said. Two such batteries are already in place in Iraq.
The officials did not rule out the possibility that lasting success might require further U.S. commitments.
“If it doesn’t take us all the way, we’ll come back and have another discussion and ask for more if we need to,” McFarland said.
(Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati; Additional reporting by Maher Chmaytelli and Stephen Kalin and Eric Beech in Washington; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Jonathan Oatis)
Elementary school cheer squad parents raffling off an AM-15 automatic weapon as a fundraiser
Just weeks after a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio killed nine people, only 200 miles away in Richmond, the cheer squad is selling raffle tickets to sell a semi-automatic gun.
Fox19 reported Wednesday that the Junior Lions Cheer Team have infuriated Heather Chilton, who's 7-year-old daughter is on the squad for the first time.
"This is absurd, you're having elementary kids sell your AR-15. Why?" Chilton said. "I highly doubt that something would happen with the gun, but say it did. Say one of the kids in the high school got a hold of it — got the AR-15 or AM-15 and shot up a school with it, and I'm the one that sold the raffle ticket to his dad?"
I think Trump’s people sit around ‘thinking up new ways to be cruel’: Senator
On Wednesday's edition of MSNBC's "All In," Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) tore into the Trump administration for its treatment of migrant children, as yet more reports come in of children being denied basic services in squalid conditions, and as Trump considers ways to get around the federal consent decree placing limits on how long they can be detained.
"We already know from so many child specialists that detaining children in these kinds of facilities does irreparable damage to them," said Hirono. "There are alternatives to family detention this administration could care less about ... the only way to get around the consent agreement is by getting around it by proposing or having this rule, which will be immediately challenged. They want to detain families indefinitely, children indefinitely, held in situations that do them absolutely no good when there are alternatives."
Maddow: You have to watch what the lying White House does — and not what they say
MSNBC host Rachel Maddow opened her show with a quick assessment of her thoughts on the ridiculous that the president of the United States regurgitated into the mouths of his supporters Wednesday.
She began by noting that they don't do press briefings at the White House anymore; instead, they've turned to talking to the president directly as he enters or exits the building to go off on his campaign trips or vacations.
"Today the president held a long one of these," she said. "One of the ones where he tried to push everyone's buttons, the president is denouncing the prime minister of our allied Denmark. He's calling her nasty. That will get some headlines. The president attacked American Jews for a second straight day today, saying they have dual loyalty because they're Jews. Americans of other religions don't have that dual loyalty or his suspicions of dual loyalty, Jewish-Americans do, because of their religion."