Dunford Predicts Increased US Forces in Iraq

Defense Department leaders will present President Obama a series of recommendations that could include increasing the number of US troops operating in Iraq, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Friday. The options will focus on ways the US can “further support Iraqi security forces” as they work to regain territory once claimed by ISIS. “The Secretary and I both believe there will be an increase in US forces in Iraq in the coming weeks, but that decision hasn’t been made yet,” said Dunford. A US Marine was killed by an ISIS rocket attack while operating at an independent operating base about 12 miles from the 15th Iraqi Army Division on March 19. Dunford emphasized that “this position is behind the forward line” of Peshmerga troops and is “by no means out in front on its own.” The marine was assigned to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which recently deployed to Iraq to set up a firebase to defend US advisors and Iraqi troops training to retake Mosul. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, speaking alongside Dunford during the briefing, said the additional troops would not be a deviation from the current US approach to eliminating ISIL. “The Iraqi security forces are the ones that are carrying out the assault, but we’re helping them,” said Carter. “That’s been our approach and we’ll continue to do that. It started in Ramadi and will continue up to Mosul.”