President Obama on Wednesday ordered the deployment to Iraq of up to 450 military personnel to help train Iraqi forces in their fight against Islamic State.
"To improve the capabilities and effectiveness of partners on the ground, the President authorized the deployment of up to 450 additional US military personnel to train, advise, and assist Iraqi Security Forces at Taqaddum military base in eastern Anbar province," the White House said in a statement.
The decision to deploy more troops is in response to a request from Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, the White House statement adds. The two leaders met earlier this week on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Germany.
At the moment, as American officials told The New York Times, the training will be focused on Anbar province. The Islamic State is now in control of parts of Anbar including Ramadi and Fallujah, a city which was cleared of more than 4,000 Sunni insurgents by US Marines back in 2004 in one of the fiercest battles during the Iraq War.
After the fall of Ramadi last month, the United States sped up training and began increased supplies of weapons for tribal fighters. Some 70 miles west of Baghdad, the key Iraqi city fell to Islamic State fighters despite coalition air strikes.
Reuters reports that US officials expressed hope that a strengthened US presence could help Iraqi forces to retake Ramadi.
Since the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq in 2011, the US had about 200 military personnel in its Baghdad embassy. But, alarmed by the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq, Mr. Obama began sending non-combatant troops back to Iraq last summer.
The last US troop increase took place last November when Obama approved sending up to 1,500 more troops to Iraq, Reuters reported. There are currently around 3,100 American military trainers and advisers in Iraq.
According to the Pentagon, as of June 4, the US has trained 8,920 Iraqi troops at four sites, and 2,061 more are undergoing training.
The plan follows President Obama's comments Monday, in which he said the United States did not yet have a complete strategy for training Iraqi security forces, “because it requires commitments on the part of the Iraqis."
Senior US defense officials say training Iraqi security forces is proceeding at a slow pace because Iraqi forces have difficulty getting to training sites due to fighting and travel risks.