US military commanders in Iraq are devising plans to move American troops closer to frontlines as Iraqi forces gear up to retake the northern city of Mosul from Daesh (ISIL) terrorists, Pentagon officials say.
It would be a significant change of role for US soldiers, who have been deployed back to Iraq on a “train-and-advise” mission, according to The Hill.
US forces are currently working with Iraqi security forces at the division-level or above and President Barack Obama has pledged that they will be kept out of direct combat.
However, the new plans would put small US teams of about 15 troops alongside Iraqi brigades as they establish headquarters in preparation for what is expected to be a fierce battle for Mosul.
Mosul, the capital of Nineveh, has been the main seat of Daesh since the Takfiri group began its terror activities in Iraq in June 2014.
Iraqi commanders say the offensive would require between eight to 12 brigades — which means approximately 180 US soldiers could take part, ordering airstrikes, and providing intelligence, logistics, tactics, and fire support.
One Pentagon official told The Hill that recommendations on how to speed up the campaign have been submitted to the staffs of Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford.
General Lloyd Austin, the commander of US Central Command, told a Senate hearing earlier this week that he had made recommendations on how to recapture Mosul and Raqqah, Daesh’s de facto capital in Syria, to his leadership.
The general said more US troops were needed to help develop better intelligence on the ground and help with logistics. “We could increase some elements of the Special Operations footprint.”
The United States has been leading a campaign of airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. The strikes have done little to stop Daesh advances in both countries.