The United States is stepping up its military campaign against the Islamic State by sending hundreds more troops to assist Iraqi forces in an expected push on the city of Mosul, the militants’ largest stronghold. The announcement, which will bring the total authorized number of American military personnel in Iraq to more than 4,600, came two days after Baghdad said it had recaptured a base south of Mosul that is seen as an important step toward the eventual battle for the city.
The additional troops will provide a range of support for Iraqi security forces, including infrastructure and logistical capabilities at the airfield near Qayyarah.
However, there is still debate in Washington about the timing of a move on Mosul. Some U.S. and allied military and intelligence officials warn that aside from its elite counterterrorism force, the Iraqi military is not ready to take on ISIS in Mosul without significant assistance from the Kurdish peshmerga and Shi'ite militias. President Obama has been criticized for the pace of the counter-ISIS campaign, which began in 2014 and got off to a slow start, particularly in war-torn Syria, where the U.S. had few assets on the ground. Still, retaking Mosul without a plan to restore security, basic services and governance, or the money and personnel to implement it, immediately would repeat the mistake the Bush administration made in 2003 by ousting Saddam Hussein with no plan for installing a new government, said three officials from the U.S. and Britain.