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Next steps in anti-ISIL fight: More troops, equipment

By Cheryl Pellerin, DoD News

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April 19, 2016 — WASHINGTON (April 19, 2016) — Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced the next phase of the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant during a troop talk Monday in Baghdad.

The next steps in the anti-ISIL fight were authorized by President Barack Obama and coordinated with Haider al-Abadi, Iraqi prime minister, and Masoud Barzani, president of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region and leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, as well as other leaders, Carter told the troops.

“First we’re going to place additional advisers with the Iraqi security forces, now down to brigade and battalion headquarters levels. Second, we're going to make available attack helicopters in support of the [Iraqi forces] and ongoing efforts to envelop and then retake Mosul. It's an important capability,” he said.

Carter is on an extended international trip that has included India, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates. The secretary also will visit Saudi Arabia and participate in the U.S. Gulf Cooperation Council defense meeting.

Supporting the Mosul Fight

DoD also will send more high-mobility artillery rocket systems, or HIMARS, to support the Iraqi ground offensive to retake Mosul, and will provide a $415 million package of financial assistance to the Peshmerga in response to a request from the Kurdistan regional government for economic assistance.

Carter said the Peshmerga have been one of the most effective fighting forces against ISIL.

Yesterday, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said the timing of the distribution of Peshmerga funds is still to be determined, and that “it's part of ongoing U.S. support for all Iraqis in the fight, which has included $3.1 billion in assistance to the Iraqi government to support its counter-ISIL efforts.”

In Baghdad yesterday, Carter said the new actions against ISIL are coming “on top of what we're already doing. We're providing air power, command and control, other fire, training, sustainment [and] logistics,” and he noted that as part of the next steps, coalition troops -- those already in Iraq and the 217 new troops coming in -- will be used in different ways.

Flexible Logistics

During a media briefing yesterday in Baghdad, Army Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, said the character of the operation in Iraq is evolving into a maneuver fight.

“For us to enable that maneuver fight will require us to be able to have a little bit more flexibility, and one of those ways will be logistically,” he said. “The Iraqi security forces are going to be operating at extended distances from their bases, their depots … so we're going to have to provide them with a different kind of logistics support to keep their vehicles rolling and operational as they close with the enemy.”

He said the 217 new advisers would be doing “largely what we've been doing all along, which is providing the kind of military advice and access to enablers that help our partners on the ground against the enemy -- so access to coalition fires and logistics support, things of that nature.”

On the upcoming fight to take Mosul back from ISIL, MacFarland said Mosul will differ from operations that took place around the retaking of Ramadi.

Linear Operation

“Ramadi was what we call a non-contiguous battlefield, and we were operating out of … forward operating bases like Taqaddum and Al-Asad. The Iraqi security forces headquarters are all located in those facilities, which were largely surrounded by enemy-held territory and received occasional indirect fire as a result,” the general explained.

Mosul, he said, will be “more of a linear type of an operation -- more contiguous -- and therefore those headquarters are pushed out of those bases, and in order to continue to provide the kind of assistance that we have been providing we have to be able to go to them.”

Also, Mosul is four or five times the size of Ramadi and a lot farther away from Iraqi bases that provide logistics support, MacFarland added.

“It’s an order of magnitude more challenging than Ramadi was, so obviously we were able to take Ramadi back without the additional enablers. Mosul is going to be more difficult,” the general said, “hence the additional support.”