The 450 additional U.S. military forces being sent to Iraq will mainly head to a new facility at an Iraqi air base in Anbar Province to support the Iraqi government’s push to retake the province from ISIS.
As is the case with the 3,100 U.S. troops already in Iraq, they will not be in a combat role, U.S. officials said today. They will primarily advise and assist Iraqi troops in their military planning and logistics.
The new coalition site will be established at Taqaddum Air Base north of Ramadi, a location that will help facilitate the upcoming offensive into Ramadi and other areas of Iraq’s largest province.
The troops’ main mission will be to advise and assist the Iraqi Army’s 8th Division and “to enable outreach to Sunni tribesmen,” according to the Pentagon. About 50 of the personnel will serve as advisers; the remaining personnel will be for force protection and logistical support.
“The intent of this increase will be to provide personnel to assist with planning, integration and support of Iraqi Security Forces and tribal forces as they fight to retake the Ramadi and Fallujah corridor,” a Pentagon statement said.
“U.S. forces will provide operational advice and planning support the Iraqi Security Forces, to include the 8th Iraqi Army Division and other security forces associated with the Government of Iraq," the Pentagon said. "This mission will also enable tribal outreach as part of the plan Prime Minister Al-Abadi led the Council of Ministers in passing on May 19 to accelerate the training and equipping of local tribes in coordination with Anbar authorities.”
The outreach to Sunni tribesmen is key because it will add to an existing Iraqi government training program that has been criticized for delays in providing them with the necessary equipment.
Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said that the tribal outreach will be initially geared towards bringing in more Sunni tribes to fight ISIS. Eventually, that could result in a training program for the tribesmen that will be run by the U.S. military.
The coalition has five other training locations inside Iraq, including one at the sprawling al Asad Air Base in western Anbar Province. About 400 U.S. forces there have helped train the Iraqi Army’s Seventh Division. It has also served as a training location for Sunni tribesmen.
The U.S. and Iraq see their participation against ISIS as a key element in eliminating support for the group in the province.
The air base at Taqaddum has been used by the Iraqi military as a staging ground for Iraqi troops and militias preparing for an offensive to retake the city of Ramadi, which lies south of the base.
U.S. officials said the U.S. will soon establish a presence at the base to mainly advise and assist Iraqi forces with the planning and logistical support they will need to retake Ramadi and the rest of Anbar Province.
The first U.S. troops could arrive at the base in days from other units already in Iraq to begin establishing the facility and the advisory role. Additional forces will then flow into Iraq to boost the presence at the base and raising the U.S. troop presence in Iraq to 3,550.