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IRAQ

US increases troop presence in Baghdad with 300 additional troops

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 July, 2014, 12:26pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 July, 2014, 1:56am
 

The United States is sending another 300 troops to Iraq to increase security at its embassy and in the Baghdad area to protect American citizens and property.

That raises the total US troop presence in Iraq to approximately 750, the Pentagon said.

The State Department, meanwhile, announced that it was temporarily moving an unspecified "small number" of embassy staff in Baghdad to US consulates in the northern city of Arbil and the southern city of Basra. This is in addition to some embassy staff moved out of Baghdad last month.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the Baghdad embassy "will be fully equipped to carry out" its mission.

The White House announced that President Barack Obama had directed that 200 troops be sent to reinforce security at the embassy, its support facilities and Baghdad International Airport.

The Pentagon said the 200 arrived on Sunday and Monday. In a statement, the Pentagon said the troops arrived with "a detachment of helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles", or drones, "which will bolster airfield and travel route security".

"The presence of these additional forces will help enable the embassy to continue its critical diplomatic mission and work with Iraq on challenges they are facing as they confront Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant," the Pentagon's press secretary, Navy Rear Admiral John Kirby, said.

Obama notified House and Senate leaders in a letter on Monday of the additional forces heading to Iraq. Officials said the detachment of helicopters and drone aircraft would improve airfield and travel route security in Baghdad.

Obama said the force was "equipped for combat" and would "remain in Iraq until the security situation becomes such that it is no longer needed".

However, the US president has ruled out sending combat troops back into Iraq.

Kirby said another 100 troops, who had been on standby in the Middle East since mid-June, would also move into Baghdad to provide security and logistics support.

That raises to about 470 the number of US troops providing security in Baghdad.

Those forces are separate from the teams of up to 300 US military advisers that Obama authorised for deployment to Iraq in June. About 180 had arrived as of Monday, the Pentagon said. They are assessing the state of Iraqi security forces and coordinating with Iraqi authorities.

The US also has a permanent group of about 100 military personnel in the Office of Security Cooperation, at the embassy, to coordinate US military sales.

Additional reporting by The Washington Post

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