In the past few days, more than 400 additional US troops have been deployed to Iraq, a military official for the US Central Command (CENTCOM) said yesterday. This comes as Iraqi forces and allied militias prepare to recapture Mosul, Daesh’s last major Iraqi population centre.
Colonel John Dorrian, spokesman for CENTCOM, confirmed that the number of US troops in Iraq had increased from about 4,000 a week ago to 4,460 today, and that the deployments were authorised earlier this year.
Although Dorrian did not say what the troops would be doing, it is likely that they will be involved in training Iraqi troops and helping to coordinate air and artillery strikes while Baghdad and Kurdish Peshmerga forces continue to prepare for the expected operation to retake Mosul to begin later this year.
Apart from deploying considerable air assets to the fight against Daesh, US ground forces engaged in a skirmish with Daesh fighters south of Mosul last June, suggesting that US troops may play a larger role in the upcoming battle to recapture Iraq’s second largest city.
General Joe Votel, CENTCOM’s chief, was quoted by AFP late last month as saying that he believed that coalition-backed Iraqi forces could retake Mosul by the end of the year.
Votel’s comments support statements issued by Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi, who has previously vowed to retake Mosul before 2017.
Before Daesh forced Mosul out of Baghdad’s sphere of control, the northern Iraqi city was home to some 2.5 million people. Mosul’s present population is difficult to estimate, though the United Nations has warned that up to 1.5 million people could be displaced once the operation begins.