Defense Sec: U.S. Will Send 200 More Troops to Help Combat ISIS in Iraq

ISIS fighters in Mosul
ISIS fighters in Mosul / AP

The U.S. military plans to send 217 additional troops to Iraq to help the Iraqi government forces combat ISIS there, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced Monday.

More special operations forces will be among those sent to Iraq, NBC News reported. The troops will expand the effort to train and advise Iraqi troops fighting ISIS, Carter said.

The announcement comes as Iraqi army forces have faltered in their mission to capture several key villages from ISIS with the eventual goal of taking Mosul, which serves as the terror group’s de facto capital in Iraq. The U.S. is also sending Apache attack helicopters and another HIMARS rocket system to help the Iraqi forces as they prepare for the mission to retake Mosul, Carter said Monday.

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Additionally, the U.S. has committed $415 million to the Kurdish Peshmerga forces, who are also assisting with the U.S.-backed mission to erode the terror group’s hold in Iraq.

The decision to send 217 additional troops to Iraq will increase the official count of U.S. troops positioned there to 4,087. While there were officially 3,870 troops in Iraq as of last month, The Daily Beast reported in February that the true total was well over 4,000 troops.

Despite sending dozens of special operators to both Iraq and Syria and setting up a Marine fire base near Mosul, the Obama administration has repeatedly insisted that American boots are not on the ground combating the terror group.

A top defense official told NBC that the move announced Monday did not represent a major shift in strategy.

Iraqi army soldiers have been hindered by desertions and ISIS violence as they push to capture villages held by the terror group before advancing toward Mosul.

"That is where I believe the toughest fight is going to be," the defense official was quoted as saying about Mosul. "I do expect that we’re going to accept more risk and we’re going to bring in resources as appropriate to protect and buy down that risk, absolutely."

Carter made the announcement as he visited Iraq on Monday as part of a trip through the Middle East.