President Barack Obama ordered up an additional 200 American military troops for deployment in Iraq on Monday, where they will be tasked with helping secure the US Embassy and the Baghdad International Airport. This latest move to increase US military presence in Iraq comes as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) continues capturing territory in the country, and will bring the total number of US troops on the ground nationwide to 750.
Trying to figure out where those 750 are at any given moment, and what they're doing while they're there, is not easy.
"This force is deploying for the purpose of protecting US citizens and property, if necessary, and is equipped for combat," Obama said in a letter addressed to the US House of Representatives on Monday. "This force will remain in Iraq until the security situation becomes such that it is no longer needed."
According to the Pentagon, the troops arrived on Sunday along with a detachment of helicopters and drones. They will integrate with troops sent in recent weeks to help protect the US embassy and personnel already in the area.
“The presence of these additional forces will help enable the embassy to continue its critical diplomatic mission and work with Iraq on challenges they are facing,” Rear Admiral John Kirby, a spokesman for the Pentagon, said in a statement.
'They will be very good at improving the immediate tactical proficiency of some of the Iraqi military, but they will be less prepared to address the longterm health of the Iraqi army.'
In a separate authorization, Obama also gave the green light for up to 300 personnel to take part in an advisory mission aimed at establishing two joint operations centers and providing support to Iraqi security forces in their battle against ISIS.
The Pentagon reported that a first joint operations center was opened in Baghdad on June 26 with the help of 90 American troops.
“The most important reason we have [the Joint Operations Center] there is to provide command and control to the teams that are on the ground,” Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said at the time. “Additionally, it will of course serve as a fusion center where information that’s coming in from the various teams can be consolidated and it can be analyzed.”
Meanwhile, the US State Department said the US Embassy in Baghdad will move a “small number” of its staff to the consulates in the city of Erbil to the north and Basra to the south.
The newest set of deployed troops will join the 275 security forces that Obama authorized — with the consent of the Iraqi government — on June 16, “to provide support and security for US personnel and the US Embassy in Baghdad.” These forces were also being sent to help the US State Department during the initial relocation of its staff from the embassy in Baghdad to consulates in Basra and Erbil.
In a statement at the time, Kirby said that the troops were “trained to integrate with existing US Embassy security teams or operate as a standalone force as directed.”
While approximately 180 of the authorized military personnel, mainly advisors, have arrived in Baghdad so far, another 100 had been waiting in Kuwait. Kirby said these forces will now move forward to their assignment in Baghdad in order to provide security and logistics support.
"They will be very good at improving the immediate tactical proficiency of some of the Iraqi military, but they will be less prepared to address the longterm health of the Iraqi army," said retired US Lieutenant General James Dubik, who led the training of Iraqi forces in 2007 and 2008.
The troops that Obama has authorized since the crisis in Iraq flared up in June join approximately 150 personnel that were already in the country stationed at the Office of Security Cooperation and the embassy in Baghdad.
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