The U.S. military has asked the White House to deploy up to 500 additional troops to Iraq to assist in the U.S.-led coalition campaign to retake Mosul from the Islamic State, according to U.S. officials.
The deployment would assist Iraqi security forces preparing for the offensive to capture the country’s second largest city, which is expected to begin as early as mid-October, officials told the Wall Street Journal.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced earlier this week at the United Nations General Assembly meetings that Iraqi forces began an operation on Tuesday in Shirqat, a town north of Baghdad, to further damage ISIS supply lines to Mosul in preparation for a larger battle.
U.S. officials said President Obama has not yet received the military’s plan.
If the White House approves the request, American personnel officially deployed to Iraq would increase from 4,400 to about 4,900. The Pentagon also maintains up to 1,500 additional troops in Iraq who are on temporary assignments or not included in formal military tallies.
The Obama administration has maintained that ground troops in Iraq are not engaging in direct combat, but are rather serving in advise-and-assist roles to local forces.
The majority of the added troops would be assigned to a U.S. military logistics hub south of Mosul. ISIS militants deployed a weapon containing a mustard agent against the base on Tuesday, though no U.S. troops were injured.
U.S. officials have signaled in recent months that the Iraq military is ready to lead its forces and coalition troops into Mosul in October.