BAGHDAD (AP) — The U.S. has agreed to deploy more than 200 additional troops to Iraq and to send Apache helicopters for the first time into the fight against the Islamic State group in Iraq, U.S. defense officials said Monday.
The decisions reflect weeks of discussions with commanders and Iraqi leaders, and a decision by President Barack Obama to increase the authorized troop level in Iraq by 217 forces — or from 3,870 to 4,087.
Of the additional troops, most would be Army special forces, who have been used all along to advise and assist the Iraqis. The remainder would include some trainers, security forces for the advisers, and more maintenance teams for the Apaches.
The advise and assist teams — made up of about a dozen troops each — would embed with Iraqi brigades and battalions, putting them closer to the fight, and at greater risk from mortars and rocket fire. They would have security forces with them.
Putting the U.S. teams with Iraqi forces closer to the battlefront will allow them to provide more tactical combat advice as the Iraqi units move toward Mosul. Until now, U.S. advisers have worked with the Iraqis at the headquarters level, well back from the front lines.
The Apaches are considered a significant aid to any attack on Mosul, providing precision fires in the fight.
Last December, U.S. officials were trying to carefully negotiate new American assistance with Iraqi leaders who often have a different idea of how to wage war. At that time, the Iraqis turned down a U.S. offer to provide Apache helicopters for the battle to retake Ramadi.