U.S. to send 300 troops to reinforce security in Baghdad
The United States is sending 300 troops to Iraq to beef up security at the U.S. Embassy and elsewhere in the Baghdad area to protect American citizens and property, officials said on Monday.
That raises the total troop presence in Iraq to about 750, the Pentagon said.
The State Department announced it is temporarily moving an unspecified “small number” of embassy staff in Baghdad to U.S. consulates in the northern city of Irbil and the southern city of Basra. Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the Baghdad embassy “will be fully equipped to carry out” its mission.
The White House said President Obama had directed that 200 troops be sent to reinforce security at the embassy, its support facilities and Baghdad International Airport.
The Pentagon said the 200 arrived on Sunday and Monday.
“The presence of these additional forces will help enable the embassy to continue its critical diplomatic mission and work with Iraq on challenges they are facing as they confront Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant,” said the Pentagon's press secretary, Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby.
Officials said the forces will bring a detachment of helicopters and drone aircraft to improve airfield and travel route security.
Obama has ruled out sending combat troops back into Iraq. He said the extra troops will stay in Iraq until security improves and reinforcements are no longer needed.
Kirby said 100 troops, who had been on standby in the Middle East since mid-June, will move into Baghdad to provide security and logistics support.
That raises to about 470 the number of U.S. troops providing security in Baghdad.
Meanwhile, the militant extremist group's unilateral declaration of an Islamic state is threatening to undermine its already-tenuous alliance with other Sunnis who helped it overrun much of northern and western Iraq.
If history is any guide, the uneasy allies have reason to worry. In Syria, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant cooperated with many rebel groups after initially pushing into the country in spring 2013. Over time, however, it moved against its erstwhile allies and eventually crushed them.