After deploying the first U.S. servicemembers to Iraq to provide assistance in countering the terrorist threat in the country on the 24th, an additional four teams consisting of approximately 50 personnel arrived in Baghdad yesterday. Their arrival brings the number of American servicemembers in place to 180, with 90 assessors on the ground and an additional 90 personnel charged with leading the joint operations center that opened in the city yesterday.
The advisory teams are tasked with assessing the security situation in Iraq in response to the rapid spread of the Syrian-based extremist group ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) throughout the northern and western parts of the country. Over the next several weeks, these personnel will disperse throughout Baghdad to “assess the cohesiveness and readiness of Iraqi security forces, higher headquarters in Baghdad, and examine the most effective and efficient way to introduce follow-on advisers,” said Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Admiral John Kirby in a media briefing on Tuesday.
The teams are largely comprised of Army Special Forces personnel and are being led by lieutenant colonels, according to the Defense Department. After conducting their assessments, the teams will provide recommendations to leadership on the level of threat posed by ISIL and how to best assist the Iraqi forces.
Servicemembers operating within the Baghdad joint operations center represent a mix of personnel, Kirby explained, with intelligence analysts, logisticians, IT specialists, line personnel, and special operators all taking part in the mission. “All of these troops that we’re talking about represent all the services. It’s a joint mission,” he emphasized. The United States also plans to open a second joint operations center in northern Iraq within the coming weeks.
The 180 personnel currently in place represent the first of the possible 300 servicemembers President Obama stated could possibly be sent to Iraq. Overall, there is currently a total of about 500 servicemembers in the country, conducting a variety of missions. In addition to the deployed troops on the ground, U.S. surveillance flights over Iraq are ongoing, with a mix of unmanned and manned operations totaling “about 30 to 35 flights per day to help us gain better insight about the security situation on the ground,” Kirby said. These flights will help inform both the assessment teams in developing their findings and Iraqi security forces, he stated, and are part of the United States’ dual focus of military effort in the country. ♦