U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Nov. 16 the Pentagon will accelerate its mission to train Iraqi forces to combat Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants, using troops already in Iraq to start the effort while funding is sought for a broader initiative.
Hagel, speaking to reporters while visiting the Army’s National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, said special operations forces had moved into Iraq’s Anbar province in recent days to begin work on the training effort.
Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said later about 50 special operations troops were at Ain al-Asad air base working to set up the training mission. The base was home to a major U.S. military presence during the 2003-11 Iraq war.
Hagel’s announcement follows President Barack Obama’s Nov. 7 decision to roughly double the number of U.S. troops in Iraq, adding 1,500 military personnel to establish sites to train nine Iraqi brigades and set up two more centers to advise military commands.
Obama also sought $5.6 billion in funding from Congress for the initiative, including $1.6 billion to train and equip Iraqi forces. Officials initially said the funding would have to be approved by Congress before the new effort could begin.