U.S. President Barack Obama. (Reuters/Larry Downing)President Barack Obama authorized the US military to send 1,500 more troops to Iraq on Friday. That would nearly double the American military presence in the country. He also requested $5.6 billion for the fight against the Islamic State
The additional troops will expand the military’s role in training and helping Iraqi forces, focusing on the part of the volatile Anbar Province that is currently under Islamic State control, sources told NBC News.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey ‒ and other high-ranking military officials ‒ have repeatedly warned that airstrikes will not be enough to defeat the brutal extremist group in Iraq and Syria.
“No one is under any illusion — under any illusions — that airstrikes alone will destroy ISIL,” Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told reporters at the end of September. “They are one element of our broader, comprehensive campaign against ISIL.”
The president is seeking from Congress a new authorization in the mission that would allow American troops to use force in Iraq. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), the presumed incoming Senate majority leader, has said he would welcome such a move. The current bombing campaign, which began three months ago, relies on the 2001 resolution allowing for the use of military force in the wake of the September 11 attacks.
The White House will ask Congress for $5.6 billion for the operations in Iraq and Syria, which includes $1.6 billion for the new "Iraq Train and Equip Fund," the White House Office of Management and Budget said.
The US military will establish two new expeditionary advise-and-assist operations centers outside Baghdad and Erbil. The troops will train 12 brigades ‒ nine of which will be under Iraqi army command, while the other three will be Kurdish peshmerga.