US to send 200 more troops, Apache helicopters, to Iraq

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FILE - In this Monday, April 4, 2016 file photo, elite counterterrorism forces transport women and children fleeing their homes during clashes between Iraqi security forces and Islamic State group in Hit, 85 miles (140 kilometers) west of Baghdad, Iraq. As they entered the center of a strategically important western Islamic State-held town, the decision to use siege tactics has complicated and delayed operations. Thousands of civilians are trapped in the town and the slow pace of operations has allowed IS fighters to dig in to stage harsh counterattacks. But Iraq’s elite counterterrorism forces say the approach is key to ensuring their territorial gains stick.(AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed, File) FILE – In this Monday, April 4, 2016 file photo, elite counterterrorism forces transport women and children fleeing their homes during clashes between Iraqi security forces and Islamic State group in Hit, 85 miles (140 kilometers) west of Baghdad, Iraq. As they entered the center of a strategically important western Islamic State-held town, the decision to use siege tactics has complicated and delayed operations. Thousands of civilians are trapped in the town and the slow pace of operations has allowed IS fighters to dig in to stage harsh counterattacks. But Iraq’s elite counterterrorism forces say the approach is key to ensuring their territorial gains stick.(AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed, File)

U.S. officials say the U.S. will send 200 more troops and a number of Apache helicopters to Iraq to assist in the fight against the ISIL group.

The U.S. has agreed to deploy more than 200 additional troops to Iraq and to send Apache helicopters for the first time into the fight against the Islamic State group in Iraq, U.S. defense officials said Monday.

The decisions reflect weeks of discussions with commanders and Iraqi leaders, and a decision by President Barack Obama to increase the authorized troop level in Iraq by 217 forces — or from 3,870 to 4,087.

Of the additional troops, most would be Army special forces, who have been used all along to advise and assist the Iraqis. The remainder would include some trainers, security forces for the advisers, and more maintenance teams for the Apaches.

The advise and assist teams — made up of about a dozen troops each — would embed with Iraqi brigades and battalions, putting them closer to the fight, and at greater risk from mortars and rocket fire. They would have security forces with them.

Putting the U.S. teams with Iraqi forces closer to the battlefront will allow them to provide more tactical combat advice as the Iraqi units move toward Mosul. Until now, U.S. advisers have worked with the Iraqis at the headquarters level, well back from the front lines.

The Apaches are considered a significant aid to any attack on Mosul, providing precision fires in the fight.

Last December, U.S. officials were trying to carefully negotiate new American assistance with Iraqi leaders who often have a different idea of how to wage war. At that time, the Iraqis turned down a U.S. offer to provide Apache helicopters for the battle to retake Ramadi.

Story from the Associated Press.