Sending 1,500 more troops to Iraq isn’t a sign the US strategy against Islamic State is failing, US President Barack Obama said.
The decision shows the campaign is entering a new phase, Obama told CBS TV in an interview.
The additional US troops are being sent to help train Iraqi army soldiers and militia fighters to battle the Muslim militant group on the ground after weeks of US and allied airstrikes.
“The airstrikes have been very effective in degrading ISIL’s capabilities and slowing the advance that they were making,” Obama told CBS on Sunday, using another acronym for IS.
“Now what we need is ground troops, Iraqi ground troops, that can start pushing them back.”
US forces will not go into combat, Obama said. But he said the United States will provide local troops with “close air support” once they are ready to go on the offensive against IS.
In other developments, Reuters reported:
– Iraqi military forces reached the center of the northern city of Baiji on Sunday in an effort to break a siege by IS of the country’s biggest refinery, triggering fierce clashes with the militants, an army colonel and a witness said.
- Uncertainty lingered over the fate of IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi after the US led air strikes against the group in at least two locations in Iraq on Friday night. State television cited reports that Baghdadi had been wounded, but the US said it had no information to indicate he had been hit.
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