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US Forces Start Training Iraqi Army in Anbar Province

Sputnik News

19:36 16.11.2014(updated 21:45 16.11.2014)

American forces would eventually start training the Iraqi army's Seventh division, which suffered major setbacks during the Islamic State's advances across the country this summer, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

MOSCOW, November 16 (Sputnik) — American forces have begun advising Iraqi troops in the western Anbar province, escalating the expansion of operations against the Islamic State, reports Reuters.

Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff general Martin Dempsey said a small group of advisers had already set up for an initial stage at Ain al-Asad air base in the province where the Islamist militant group has a strong hold. They would also eventually start training the Iraqi army's Seventh division, which suffered major setbacks during the Islamic State's advances across the country this summer.

'We have a train, advice and assist team in al-Asad air base,' he told Reuters.

'There's enough there that are already working with the seventh division to help them plan and help them understand the threat, to advise them on how to consolidate their forces.'

According to Reuters, the Seventh division's ability and preparedness to engage Sunni militant forces in Anbar could be vital to any sustained offensive to reverse the Islamic State's gains. The militants seized Anbar's two main cities, Falluja and Ramadi, several months before it overran much of the rest of the country, often facing little resistance from Iraqi government forces.

On November 7, President Barack Obama's administration announced that it would send up to 1,500 more US troops to Iraq, widening its advising mission and initiating training of Baghdad's forces. At the time, officials suggested the expansion would take weeks to get underway.

The goal is to create a bridging force of thousands of Sunni tribesmen before Iraq's Shi'ite-led government creates a 'National Guard', decentralizing power from Baghdad, reports Reuters.

The official said the US training operation at al-Asad was expected to get underway this year. Earlier, the White House asked Congress to provide $5.6 billion for its operation against the Islamic State, in part to set up a program to retrain 12 Iraqi brigades and to expand the US mission to advise Iraqi military commanders, reported by Washington Post.

Dempsey described the American troops at the base as the preliminary group that would establish the training site at al Asad. 'There's an adequate contingent there that can both protect itself and advise but it will need to be expanded slightly… in order to establish the training base,' he said.

Earlier it was reported by Washington Post that Obama, who ended the United States' last war in Iraq in 2011, pledged that US forces will not return to ground combat there.

Sputnik



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