Nearly half of the roughly 300 U.S. military advisers and special operations forces expected to go to Iraq are now in Baghdad and have begun to assess Iraqi forces in the fight against Sunni militants, the Defense Department said Tuesday as the U.S. ramped up aid to the besieged country.
On Capitol Hill, senators who left a closed briefing with senior Obama administration officials expressed hope Iraq could soon form a new government, perhaps in the next week, facilitating greater U.S. military action against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who attended that meeting, backed what he described as an advancing American strategy.
At the Pentagon, Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters the troops in Baghdad included two teams of special forces and about 90 advisers, intelligence analysts, commandos and some other support personnel needed to set up a joint operations center in the Iraqi capital. Another four teams of special forces would arrive in the next few days, Kirby said.
Those troops, added to the approximately 360 other U.S. forces that are in and around the embassy in Baghdad to perform security, would bring the total U.S military presence in Iraq to about 560.
Kirby also said the U.S. was conducting up to 35 surveillance missions over Iraq daily to provide intelligence on the situation on the ground as Iraqi troops battle the aggressive and fast-moving insurgency.