Obama sends more troops to Iraq
The United States is again ramping up its military presence in Iraq, sending about 300 additional troops into the country as well as a detachment of helicopters and drone aircraft, the Pentagon says.
Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said about 200 forces arrived on Sunday (local time) in Iraq to reinforce security at the US embassy, its support facilities and Baghdad International Airport. Another 100 personnel were also due to move to Baghdad to "provide security and logistics support".
"These forces are separate and apart from the up to 300 personnel the president authorised to establish two joint operations centres and conduct an assessment of how the US can provide additional support to Iraq's security forces," Kirby said in a statement.
There are now about 750 US military personnel in Iraq, including soldiers tasked to assess Iraqi's military and to protect US personnel there, and military advisers who have been stationed there since the US withdrawal in 2011.
The new troop movement is part of the Obama administration's attempt to help Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's push back the stunning gains that militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) have made over the last few weeks.
A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the United States was also considering putting up a new joint military operations centre in the northwest of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region.
While no final decisions have been made, the official said that the new operations centre, which would be the second such cell the United States has established since Iraq's security deteriorated earlier this month, could be placed in the province of Duhok, in Iraq's farthest northern reaches near Syria and Turkey.
US soldiers at a similar joint operations centre in Baghdad are gathering information about the situation on the ground and overseeing US soldiers who are taking stock of the Iraqi military in the field.
In addition to supplying weaponry and conducting surveillance flights, Washington has also sent hundreds of military advisers and other soldiers to assess the Iraqi army, which largely evaporated in northern Iraq when Isis fighters swept in earlier this month, and to protect US personnel.
President Barack Obama has not ruled out air strikes against Isis, which has gained strength as the war in neighbouring Syria has dragged on.
It was not immediately clear whether US soldiers at the new joint operations center would be working primarily with the Peshemerga, the Kurdish forces that have long protected Iraq's Kurdish enclave, or whether forces from the Iraqi military commanded from Baghdad would be involved.