More US troops heading for Iraq

  • 19/04/2016

By Yeganeh Torbati

The United States will send more troops to Iraq, potentially putting them closer to the front lines to advise Iraqi forces in the war against Islamic State militants.

US Defense Secretary Ash Carter made the announcement on Monday during a visit to Baghdad in which he met American commanders, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, and Iraqi Defence Minister Khaled al-Obeidi.

The additional support comes with Iraq engulfed in a political crisis over anti-corruption reforms that is crippling state institutions and threatening to slow the military campaign against the militants.

Iraq's parliament has failed three times to vote on a cabinet overhaul sought by Abadi to stem graft.

About 200 additional troops will be deployed, raising the number of US troops in Iraq to about 4100, a senior US defence official said.

The Pentagon will also provide up to US$415 million (NZ$597 million) to Kurdish military units.

Lieutenant General Sean MacFarland, head of the US-led coalition battling Islamic State, said the United States would discuss how the funding would be spent with the Kurdish government, but that part of it would likely be spent on food for the Kurdish peshmerga forces.

"Right now the peshmerga are not getting enough calories to keep them in the field, so we're very interested in making sure that they have enough food just to carry on the fight," he said.

Carter did not meet Kurdish leaders during his visit, but spoke with the president of the Kurdish region, Massoud Barzani, by telephone.

Monday's announcement is the latest move in the past several months by the United States to step up its campaign against the hard-line Sunni jihadists.

US special forces are also deployed in Iraq and Syria as part of the campaign.