The United States will deploy close to 1,000 paratroopers to Iraq in the next year to help fight ISIS, the first major infusion of troops in the battle against the Islamist militants.
The soldiers come from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, and will deploy in late January to train, advise, and assist the Iraqi forces, Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters this week. The troops will be working with the Iraqi army and Kurdish militants in an effort to reclaim land lost to ISIS earlier this year.
Another 300 troops from the Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps will also provide support in areas of counterintelligence, logistics, and signals, Kirby said. The move comes after President Barack Obama authorized an additional 1,500 troops to Iraq to train and advise Iraqi fighters.
“The key to success out there will be increasing the capabilities of Iraqi security forces,” said Lt. Gen. James Terry, the commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve.
During the Iraq War, the American military spent billions of dollars building up and equipping the Iraqi army, but many of these units fell apart as ISIS advanced, leaving troops slaughtered and countless weapons in the hands of militants.
The United States has been conducting airstrikes against ISIS positions in support of Iraqi and Kurdish fighters, strikes meant to impact the militants’ ability to move freely and communicate.
The announcement of new troops to Iraq comes just after the first skirmish between ISIS fighters and American personnel in Iraq. ISIS militants reportedly tried to overrun the Ein al-Asad base, which includes close to 100 U.S. military advisers. The U.S. troops, armed with “light and medium weapons,” were able to push back the ISIS fighters, Shafaq News reported.
“US forces intervened because of ISIS started to come near the base, which they are stationed in so out of self-defense,” said Sheikh Mahmud Nimrawi, a prominent tribal leader.
It was not announced how long the new round of troops will stay in Iraq to combat ISIS, but Terry said it would take “a minimum of three years” to fully build up the Iraqi forces.