BAGHDAD, During a visit to Baghdad, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter on Monday said the United States will deploy 560 additional troops to Iraq to assist Iraqi security forces in combating the Islamic State.
Carter’s announcement follows the capture of the Qayyarah Air Base by Iraqi security forces on Saturday away from the control of the Islamic State, also known as ISIL, Daesh and ISIS. The air base, also known as Qayyarah Airfield West, is about 25 miles south of Mosul and 20 miles west of the town of Qayyarah.
“With the retaking of Qayyarah West airfield, the Iraqi Security Forces have once again demonstrated a serious will to fight,” Carter said after meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. “I congratulate them on their recent successes and reaffirm that the United States, along with our coalition partners, will continue to do all we can to support Iraq’s effort to serve ISIL a lasting defeat.”
The Pentagon said the air base will become a “vital springboard” for Iraqi security forces as the offensive to retake Mosul continues. U.S. President Barack Obama approved of the deployment of additional forces.
The number of U.S. troops in Iraq will officially increase to 4,647. Nearly 6,000 troops are deployed when counting U.S. troops there on temporary assignments. The U.S. troops will offer a variety of support to Iraqis such as providing logistics, creating infrastructure and training soldiers.
“At every step in this campaign, we have generated and seized additional opportunities to hasten ISIL’s lasting defeat,” Carter said. “These additional U.S. forces will bring unique capabilities to the campaign and provide critical enabler support to Iraqi forces at a key moment in the fight.”
It is Carter’s fourth trip to Iraq as secretary of defense since assuming his position in February 2015.