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U.S. sending more troops to Iraq, $415M to Peshmerga for Mosul victory

By
Andrew V. Pestano
Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter made an unscheduled visit to Iraq on Monday where he will meet with various U.S. and Iraqi officials to discuss the possibility of increasing U.S. efforts in the fight against the Islamic State -- particularly during the offensive by Iraqi Security Forces to retake Mosul. File photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI.
Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter made an unscheduled visit to Iraq on Monday where he will meet with various U.S. and Iraqi officials to discuss the possibility of increasing U.S. efforts in the fight against the Islamic State -- particularly during the offensive by Iraqi Security Forces to retake Mosul. File photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI. | License Photo

BAGHDAD, April 18 (UPI) -- The United States will increase troop numbers in Iraq, deploy AH-64 Apache helicopters and help fund Kurdish Peshmerga with up to $415 million amid the effort to retake Mosul from the Islamic State.

Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook announced "new accelerants" to defeat the Islamic State, also known as Daesh, ISIL and ISIS.

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"List includes additional advisors, firepower, and financial aid to the [Peshmerga]," Cook wrote on Twitter. "New accelerants are about accelerating the defeat of ISIL by, with, and through the government of Iraq."

The announcement follows a unscheduled visit by U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter to Iraq on Monday to discuss increasing U.S. military efforts.

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Carter met with Lt. Gen. Sean McFarland, the U.S. commander in charge of the coalition campaign against the Islamic State; Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi; and Iraqi Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi.

The officials were expected to discuss increasing U.S. troops among other strategies on how the United States can help Iraqi Security Forces defeat the Islamic State. Carter also held a conference call with Iraqi Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani.

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"We are looking to do more," Carter previously said while at the Dhafra Air Base near Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. "That ranges from in the air to on the ground. You should expect to see us doing more."

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Mosul is considered one of the most important battles in the violent quagmire against the Islamic State in Iraq.

Since U.S. coalition began airstrikes against IS targets in August 2014, about 7,500 airstrikes have been conducted in Iraq and about 3,700 have been launched in Syria. The Islamic State -- also identified as Daesh, ISIS and ISIL -- in June 2014 seized control of Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city with a population of about 2 million.

"Everyone knows the fight of Iraq is the fight for Mosul," a senior U.S. defense official traveling with Carter told reporters, Stars and Stripes reported. "Mosul is the end game in Iraq."

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The official said that the United States is not suggesting significantly increasing the presence of U.S. forces on the ground.

"We are not looking for a big footprint and the Iraqis certainly will be supportive of things that are directly connected to capabilities that they feel their soldiers need do the fight," the official said, suggesting that U.S. presence previously helped Iraqis take back the city of Ramadi.

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Iraqi Security Forces launched an offensive to retake the city of Mosul away from Islamic State control in March. The effort began by isolating the city from surrounding areas and slowly chipping away at IS territory and supply routes.

The ground offensive is supported by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes. On Sunday, it was reported that the Iraqi Air Force launched airstrikes that destroyed three Islamic State headquarters, killing at least 17 IS members, including Ahmed Qasim al-Farahat, an IS financial operator.

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