Marine military advisers deployed to at Al Asad Air Base in Iraq are may be ready to carry out their mission to train local forces to fight the Islamic State group. But there's one problem: There are no Iraqi troops to train. , butIraqi security troops to advise are hard to come by.
A U.S. defense official told The Hill on Monday June 8 this week that there haven't been new rotations of Iraqi troops to train at the base in Anbar province — one of five sites used by coalition forces to advise and train Iraqi local troops — for up to a month and a half.
Marine officials with the task force operating there confirmed the assessment, attributing the lull in training to the base's remoteness of the base's location and the challenge of scheduling advising sessions through the Iraqi defense ministry. not seen new rotations of Iraqi troops to train in up to a month and a half. Asked about the comments, Marine officials with the task force attributed the lull in training to the remoteness of the base's location and the challenge of scheduling advising training Ministry of Defense.
The news comes as the White House moves to send up about to an additional 450 more U.S. troops to augment the advising mission in Iraq. They're slated to train Iraqi forces troops at a new location: al-Taqaddum Air Base, about 100 miles southeast of Al Asad in Anbar province. The move is meant to help the Iraqi army take back Ramadi, the largest city in the province, from Islamic State militants. On Thursday, t The Pentagon announced June 11 that several new bases could be created in the province to assist local troops in the fight against IS.
Despite the pause in the advising mission at Al Asad, Marine 1st Lt. Matthew Gregory, a spokesman for the task force there Task Force Al Asad, said training troops at the air base is vital to the Iraqis' success. So far, aAbout 1,000 security forces from the Iraqi 7th Division have been trained by Task Force Al Asad received training at Al Asad since January, he Gregory said, and , adding that advisers were more concerned about the quality of the training and the survivability of Iraqi troops in combat than they were about the number of troops pushed through the course another 100 are scheduled to begin small-unit tactics training there next week.
"While not as busy as some of the other [building partner capacity] sites, mostly due to the remote location of Al Asad, it continues to be a key piece of the ... mission, specializing in small unit tactics, counter-[improvised explosive device] IED tactics and urban combat techniques," Gregory said via email.
U.S. military Gregory said, adding that advisers were more concerned about the quality of the training and the survivability of Iraqi troops in combat than they are were about the number of troops pushed through their course, he said. Most recently, the task force trained Iraqi engineers to counter IED attacks. improvised explosive devices with Iraqi engineers
When the Marines have no Iraqi troops to train, Gregory said they do what many of their non-deployed counterparts do: maintain core skills on the ranges at Al Asad and improve upon the advising course while awaiting for the next group of trainees to arrive. Troops also work with 7th Division leaders, he said, to provide mentoring and develop command and control processes.
The U.S. is building up the coalition training mission amid some doubts about the commitment of the Iraqi security forces. When Islamic State militants fighters captured the population hub of Ramadi in late May, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter attributed the Iraqis' ISF loss to a lack of demonstrated will to fight.
"They were not outnumbered. In fact, they vastly outnumbered the opposing force, and yet they failed to fight," Carter said in a CNN interview.
In the June 10 Wednesday's today's announcement about the deployment of more military advisers, White House officials said the move came after a request from Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi. The troops will work to improve the ability of the Iraqi forces to fight Islamic State militants in eastern Anbar province, according to a statement from Press Secretary Josh Earnest.
Despite the plan to establish the new training base, Gregory said the predominantly Marine presence at Al Asad Air Base is expected to remain constant amid other moves in the region. There are currently about base now houses 320 members of the Corps' Middle East crisis response unit who provide security at the base. There are also an undisclosed number of Marines, other U.S. service members and international troops that make up the training and advisory team.
About 3,100 U.S. troops are now on the ground in Iraq in an advisory capacity; that number is expected to swell to more than 3,500 when the contingent newly authorized by the White House arrives.