US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter made a secret trip to Baghdad and,while there,met with his Iraqi counterpart,Khalid al-Obaidi about the mission to retake Mosul from Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant control.The Islamist extremists seized Mosul in 2014 when they took much of the rest of Iraq from government hands as well.Since then,however,these militants have experienced blowback as the Iraqi Security Forces,backed by anti-ISIL coalition Operation Inherent Resolve airpower,artillery,advice and training have wrested back Tikrit,Ramadi and,most recently,Fallujah,from their hands and furthered the process of surrounding Mosul.Mosul is ISIL's sole remaining major stronghold in Iraq and their biggest holding in Iraq and Syria.*
Now,however,OIR is focused intently on recovering Mosul as a crucial step in delivering a lasting defeat to ISIL.Along those lines,the US is sending an additional 560 troops to Iraq for a total of about 4650 engaged in the OIR mission.The new soldiers will be based at the sprawling Qayyarah Air Base,which the ISF,backed by US airpower,recaptured from ISIL on Saturday.Among the troops will be logisticians,engineers,security and communications forces.The troops have received warning orders to deploy and will arrive in country relatively soon,said Lieutenant General Sean McFarland,US Army,commander of OIR forces in Iraq and Syria,who requested the new personnel from the President.Even more such requests could be on the way,a US military official indicated.*
With its two runways for easier movement,Qayyarah will be a key staging area for the recapture of Mosul,and the US forces there will be able to help the ISF complete the southern-most envelopment of Mosul;Kurdish forces are already dug in on the east,north and west of the city.Many of the US troops will be assigned to rehabilitate the base that has been scarred by years of war.The logisticians will help the Iraqis deal with the large formations of ISF that will be transiting through the air base;other US troops will be available to advise and assist the ISF,accompanying them to the battalion level,which is closer to the front lines than the Americans have gone before.Some US forces may help develop the air intelligence stream as the refurbished air base brings US and Iraqi aircraft strategically closer to Mosul than previously.*
Besides Qayyarah Air Base itself,a new Nineveh Liberation Operations Center,referring to Nineveh Province where Mosul is located,has been set up and staffed by dozens of US and British soldiers to coordinate the offensive with their Iraqi colleagues.