Obama Set to Expand Troops in Iraq

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Move follows Iraqi loss of Ramadi to Islamic State

President Barack Obama is poised to send hundreds more American military advisers to a new base in a strategic Iraqi region to help devise a counterattack against marauding Islamic State militants, U.S. officials said Tuesday, a shift that underscores American concern over recent battlefield losses.

The additional troops—expected to be about 500—are intended to help Iraqi forces prepare for the looming fight to break the extremists’ hold on Anbar province, which has long served as a command center for anti-American insurgents near Baghdad.

Once approved by the White House, the added force would represent the Pentagon’s latest effort to strengthen a foundering training mission that has yet to produce many victories. The last U.S. troop increase came in November, when Mr. Obama ordered up to 1,500 new troops to Iraq, which now hosts 3,080 U.S. advisers, trainers and support personnel.

The new proposal stems from Mr. Obama’s re-evaluation of his strategy against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, which has come under renewed fire since the militants last month seized control of Anbar’s capital, Ramadi.

The new plan is a marked if modest expansion of the U.S. military role in Iraq. It would expose American forces to greater risk of being drawn into direct combat with Islamic State forces that already control territory around likely sites for a planned U.S. training base.

The strategy falls short of more aggressive proposals from lawmakers including Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.), who have urged the president to send thousands more American troops to advise, assist and accompany Iraqi forces.

Mr. Obama came under greater pressure this week after saying after an international summit in Germany on Monday that he was awaiting Pentagon recommendations for enhancing Iraq policies, and that “we don’t yet have a complete strategy.”

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