Politics & Government

Obama nearly doubles troops in Iraq, asks Congress for $5.6 billion to fight Islamic State

President Barack Obama today authorized nearly doubling the number of U.S. troops in Iraq helping train Iraqi forces to fight against the Islamic State as he asked Congress for $5.6 billion for the combat effort.

The White House says the 1,500 new troops, like the 1,600 already deployed, will not be involved in combat, but will “train, advise, and assist Iraqi Security Forces, including Kurdish forces.” Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Obama has authorized U.S. personnel to conduct the missions at Iraqi military facilities located outside Baghdad and Erbil.

“U.S. troops will not be in combat, but they will be better positioned to support Iraqi Security Forces as they take the fight to ISIL,” Earnest said.

He said the decision comes at the request of the Iraqi Government and on recommendation of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and military commanders “based upon the assessed needs of the Iraqi Security Forces.’ He said the mission will be undertaken in coordination with multiple coalition partners and will be funded through the request for an Iraq Train and Equip fund that the Administration will submit to Congress.

The administration will request $5.6 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations activities to “degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL – including military operations as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan said.

The request includes $1.6 billion to establish an Iraq Train and Equip Fund to develop and support Iraqi Security Forces, including Kurdish forces, as they work with the Government of Iraq to confront ISIL, Donovan said.

Hagel made the recommendation based on a request from the Iraqi government, along with U.S. Central Command's assessment of Iraqi units and the development of a coalition campaign plan, said Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby.

U.S. Central Command will establish two “expeditionary advise and assist operations centers” outside Baghdad and Erbil, to provide support for the Iraqis, Kirby said.

U.S. Central Command will establish several sites across Iraq that will accommodate training nine Iraqi army and three Peshmerga brigades. These sites will be located in northern, western, and southern Iraq.

Coalition partners will join U.S. personnel at these locations to help build Iraqi capacity and capability, Kirby said. He said the government of Iraq, as well as the U.S. would provide funding.