Months after ending its rebel training program in Syria, the Pentagon suggested this week that it is considering sending hundreds of additional troops to Iraq to work as “trainers and supporters” in order to take back the city of Mosul.
Army Col. Steve Warren, a spokesman for the Defense Department, said he sees sending trainers to Iraq as the next step in the fight against ISIS, and that he believes the Iraqis will need at least eight combat brigades for the invasion of Mosul.
“The reason we need new trainers or additional trainers is because that’s really the next step in generating the amount of combat power needed to liberate Mosul,” Warren said Wednesday.
Traveling to Paris to meet with defense ministers from 26 nations to discuss fighting ISIS, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said he expects the number of U.S. troops in Iraq to increase from its current number of about 3,600.
“I think we’re certainly open to that,” Carter said. “I mean, I think that’s in the category that the president has indicated wherever there’s additional opportunity to make a difference, according to the strategy, we’d be willing to do that.”
Carter said that although the U.S. is “making a big contribution already,” it expects its allies to “get in the game” against the Islamic State.
“I expect the number of trainers to increase, and also the variety of the training they’re giving,” Carter said. “For example, as territory is retaken from ISIL, as moving up and ultimately including Mosul, there are going to need to be not just ground forces that can seize territory, but police forces that can keep security.”
The Obama administration ended its $500 million program training and equipping moderate Syrian rebels in October, recognizing that the program failed to produce successful ground forces to combat Islamic State militants.
At the time, Carter said that instead of continuing the current “Syria Train and Equip” program, the U.S. will seek to work more closely with capable Kurdish groups, which he called a “more strategic approach.”