Mission Creep: Obama increases military presence in Iraq

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World Tribune

The U.S. military presence in Iraq has been growing steadily amid the offensive by Islamic State of Iraq and Levant.

On June 26, officials reported that 500 troops, under the command of Maj. Gen. Dana Pittard, were deployed in the Arab state.

But the officials said most of the troops had been in Iraq before President Barack Obama’s announcement that he would send up to 300 advisers to help Baghdad battle ISIL.

“Overall, there are approximately 500 American military personnel in Iraq,” the Defense Department said on June 26.

Officials said the U.S. forces were being employed in several capacities. They cited the establishment of a joint operations center in Baghdad to monitor the advance of ISIL.

On late June 25, four teams of U.S. troops arrived in Baghdad. Officials said this brought the number of military advisory teams to six.

“Some of them are conducting an advise and assist mission, some are manning the joint operations center,” Pentagon spokesman Steve Warren said.
“Some of them are part of the [Office of Security Cooperation] and yet others are Marines that are part of a [fleet anti-terrorism security team]
platoon.”

In a briefing on June 26, Warren said each team was commanded by a lieutenant colonel. He said the four teams consisted of 90 military
personnel assigned to assess the Iraqi military as well as the ISIL offensive. So far, he said, 90 U.S. troops were deployed in the field.

At the same time, 90 U.S. soldiers were manning the new joint operations center in Baghdad. Warren said the U.S. military intended to establish
another joint operations center — this one in northern Iraq — in the coming days or weeks.

Warren denied that the arrival of U.S. troops exceeded Obama’s figure of 300. He said only 180 new troops were deployed in Iraq and remained in
the Baghdad area.

Officials said the teams would need up to three weeks to complete the assessment of the Iraqi military. They said the teams, consisting mostly of
U.S. Army special forces, were advising the Iraqis at a range of command levels.