CENTCOM: “Options Open” on More US Troops

After receiving approval for 560 more US military personnel to repair and operate the recently recaptured Qayyarah West airfield in Iraq, US Central Command is keeping its “options open” on requesting additional forces, command spokesman Army Col. Pat Ryder said July 15. “As the fight goes on, it is possible that we will need more troops,” Ryder told Pentagon reporters in a telephone briefing. Ryder would not confirm a news story that quoted CENTCOM boss Gen. Joseph Votel saying such a request was “likely.” But he said if the command determined that additional forces were needed for a specific mission to support Iraqi troops or to otherwise accelerate the battle against ISIS extremists, Votel “has the ability to go to the White House and ask for them. So far, every time we have asked it has been granted,” added Ryder. The issue generated a lengthy exchange on how additional troops would fit within a White House-set cap on force levels and whether CENTCOM was hedging on the cap by bringing in personnel on a temporary duty status that did not count. Ryder confirmed that has happened. He said there are 3,680 US personnel currently in Iraq, which is within the cap of 4,647.