President Barack Obama’s approval of Pentagon efforts to intensify the U.S. effort in Iraq may matter less for the small contingent of troops being added than for the decision to allow them closer to the front lines of the war against Islamic State.
Obama has agreed to send 217 more U.S. troops, bringing the authorized total to 4,087, and to let them “embed at the battalion level,” a step closer to the fighting than previously, Captain Jeff Davis, a Defense Department spokesman, told reporters at the Pentagon on Monday.
In addition to advising Iraqi forces, the Americans will provide “force protection, fire support and aviation support,” Davis said. That includes U.S.-operated Apache helicopters for the coming battle to retake Mosul, an Islamic State stronghold, Defense Secretary Ash Carter told troops during a visit to Baghdad.
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