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Middle East News
U.S. Allies Pledge 1,500 Military Trainers for Iraqi Forces
From the Wall Street Journal of Mon, 08 Dec 2014 21:37:19 EST
U.S. troops in Kuwait await the arrival of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.
U.S. troops in Kuwait await the arrival of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait—Nations participating in the fight against Islamic State have pledged to provide nearly 1,500 trainers to augment U.S. efforts to support Iraqi security forces, a top American general said Monday.

Army Lt. Gen. James Terry, the U.S. commander of the war effort against the extremist group, didn't identify the countries that have agreed to send troops. Defense officials said they expect the initial contributors to be European allies.

Gen. Terry told reporters in Kuwait the international commitments would match the number of trainers and advisers that the U.S. said in November it would send. When those additional U.S. troops arrive, which is expected after Congress passes a defense policy bill as early as this week, the U.S. will have approximately 3,100 troops working in Iraq.

The pledges came at a conference of coalition members earlier this month, Gen. Terry said. The members agreed to send trainers to four sites that U.S. and Iraqi security forces have been developing inside the country. Once those units are deployed, Gen. Terry said he doesn’t anticipate the need for additional forces.

“When you start now to balance the different capabilities out there across the coalition, we are doing pretty well in terms of boots on the ground,” Gen. Terry said.

Most of the coalition troops being sent to Iraq will work as trainers, but some also will advise Iraqi units planning operations against Islamic State.

For now, the Obama administration has kept U.S. military advisers off the front lines. They work on developing plans with Iraqi units at their headquarters and command posts.

Gen. Terry said right now he didn’t see a need to send American advisers to the front lines with Iraqi forces.

“If I see that need, I will certainly state it,” he said.

While Iraqi forces “still have a long way to go,” Gen. Terry said they are becoming more capable. Militants fighting for Islamic State, also known as ISIL or ISIS, are suffering setbacks, unable to take and hold additional ground in Iraq, he added.

“I would characterize it as ISIL operationally is probably on the defense, trying to hold what they have gained,” he said.

In Syria, U.S. airstrikes have helped disrupt the safe haven that Islamic State fighters use as a staging ground for operations in Iraq, he said.

But defense leaders also are being cautious in their assessments.

Speaking earlier at Camp Behring in Udairi, Kuwait, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said there have been measurable gains but he wouldn’t describe the group as on the ropes.

“This is a long term effort; difficult; there will be setbacks, there will be victories,” said Mr. Hagel.

Write to Julian E. Barnes at julian.barnes@wsj.com



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