By Chris Good and Luis Martinez
An additional 350 U.S. troops will go to Iraq to protect U.S. personnel stationed in Baghdad, the White House announced today.
The State Dept. had requested extra military personnel for security, and after the Department of Defense reviewed that request and recommended it be granted, President Obama approved the additional forces today, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest announced in a statement to reporters.
“The additional forces will not serve a combat role,” Earnest wrote. In today’s daily press briefing, Earnest again reiterated Obama’s stance that the U.S. will not send combat troops to fight on Iraq.
A U.S. official said the 350 new troops headed to Baghdad are a mix of Marines and Army personnel already serving in the U.S. Central Command’s theater of operations, which stretches from Egypt eastward through the Middle East and Turkey, up to Kazakhstan.
This deployment will bring to 820 the total of U.S. forces responsible for augmenting diplomatic security in Iraq, Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement to reporters, noting that a total of 405 military personnel will go to Baghdad, allowing 55 currently stationed there to leave Iraq.
While these troops will provide security, Earnest noted that the U.S. will continue helping Iraqi troops fight ISIS. U.S. bombs have continued to fall on ISIS targets in northern Iraq, in support of Kurdish forces fighting ISIS west if Erbil, since Obama authorized the airstrike campaign just over three weeks ago. Last week, the U.S. military expanded its anti-ISIS campaign southward to assist Shiite Turkmen surrounded by ISIS forces in the town of Amirli, and the Pentagon announced another airstrike there over the weekend.
On Thursday, the president will attend a NATO summit in Wales, where he will gather with U.S. allies that have expressed fears about the threat of ISIS, particularly as it has recruited large numbers of fighters from European nations.
“The president will be consulting this week with NATO allies regarding additional actions to take against ISIL and to develop a broad-based international coalition to implement a comprehensive strategy to protect our people and to support our partners in the fight against ISIL,” Earnest wrote, hinting at broader cooperating and potential action.
Obama is also sending top advisers to the region, Earnest announced: Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and top White House counter-terrorism adviser Lisa Monaco will travel separately to the Middle East “in the near term to build a stronger regional partnership,” Earnest wrote.