WASHINGTON–President Barack Obama is sending350 additional troops to protect the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and its support facilities, with the movecoming Tuesday in the wake of an escalating threat from theIslamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known asISIL or ISIS.
The White House issued a statement about the troop build-up as Obama was flying to Estonia and then Wales for a NATO summit where the U.S. will try to build an international coalition to battle the Islamic State.
The Obama administrationon Tuesday stepped up its response even though officials were not yetconfirmingthat the Islamic State beheaded a second U.S. journalist, Steven Sotloff.
The White House says in a statement that the State Department had asked for the additional military personnel to help protect U.S. diplomatic facilities and personnel in the Iraqi capital. The Defense Department reviewed the request and recommended the additional troops. The extra soldiers “builds upon previous embassy security deployments announced on June 15 and June 30 and will bring the total forces responsible for augmenting diplomatic security in Iraq up to approximately 820,” the Pentagon said.
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The White House says Obama approved the additional troops on Tuesday and that they will not serve in a combat role.
The Pentagon says most of the additional troops are from the Army and some are Marines.
The new deployment raises the total number of U.S. troops in Iraq to more than 1,000, with just over 800 providing security for American personnel and facilities in Baghdad.
Statement from Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby on Security Personnel in Iraq…
“The President’s action today will result in a net increase of approximately 350 additional military personnel on the ground in Baghdad providing security at the Baghdad Embassy Compound and its support facilities.
This builds upon previous embassy security deployments announced on June 15 and June 30 and will bring the total forces responsible for augmenting diplomatic security in Iraq up to approximately 820.
The additional joint forces will come from within the U.S. Central Command area of operations and will include a headquarters element, medical personnel, associated helicopters, and an air liaison team.
In all, 405 U.S. military personnel will be sent to Baghdad to provide a more robust and sustainable security presence to help the Department of State continue their critical mission.
With this order, 55 personnel who have been in Baghdad since June will redeploy outside of Iraq. Those 55 personnel will remain postured to deal with other security contingencies in the region, if necessary.
The Department of Defense will continue to plan and prepare further military options should they become necessary, and we will remain ready to protect our diplomats, our citizens, and our interests in Iraq, while we continue to work with the Iraqi government to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.”
Statement by the White House Press Secretary on Iraq:
Today, the President authorized the Department of Defense to fulfill a Department of State request for approximately 350 additional U.S. military personnel to protect our diplomatic facilities and personnel in Baghdad, Iraq. This action was taken at the recommendation of the Department of Defense after an extensive interagency review, and is part of the President’s commitment to protect our personnel and facilities in Iraq as we continue to support the Government of Iraq in its fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). These additional forces will not serve in a combat role.The President has made clear his commitment to doing whatever is required to provide the necessary security for U.S. personnel and facilities around the world. The request he approved today will allow some previously deployed military personnel to depart Iraq, while at the same time providing a more robust, sustainable security force for our personnel and facilities in Baghdad.In addition to our efforts to protect our personnel, we will continue to support the Government of Iraq’s efforts to counter ISIL, which poses a threat not only to Iraq, but to the broader Middle East and U.S. personnel and interests in the region. The President will be consulting this week with NATO allies regarding additional actions to take against ISIL and to develop a broad-based international coalition to implement a comprehensive strategy to protect our people and to support our partners in the fight against ISIL. As part of this effort, Secretary Kerry, Secretary Hagel, and President Obama’s counterterrorism advisor, Lisa Monaco, will be traveling separately to the region in the near-term to build a stronger regional partnership.Lynn Sweet and Associated Press reports