A contingent of 200 U.S. troops and Apache attack helicopters will be sent to Iraq in an effort to aid the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in their fight to retake Mosul from the Islamic State, according to a Monday report by the Associated Press.
The addition of the 200 troops brings the Pentagon’s official count of U.S. military personnel in Iraq to about 3,850, just below the stated cap of 3,870. Several reports claim that the actual number of U.S. forces in Iraq could be anywhere between 4,450 to 5,000.
Nancy Youssef of the Daily Beast first reported in February that the Pentagon’s official troop count was far larger than what was being claimed. Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman U.S. Army Col. Steve Warren later confirmed Yousseff’s claim, saying “I don’t think we’re going to dispute what’s in the Daily Beast article.”
The addition of Apache attack helicopters is a major step in the ongoing evolution of U.S. involvement in Iraq. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter first offered Iraq Apache support during the ISF’s fight for Ramadi last December, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declined the offer.
Deploying the AH-64 Apache Longbow against ISIS would give the ISF another tool to be utilized on the battlefield against ISIS, in addition to the remote and manned aircraft already participating in air strikes. The Apache is taylor-made to engage in ground attack operations. Not only is the helicopter more agile than a traditional aircraft, it also has a wide array of weaponry which it can utilize against an enemy, ranging from its 30 mm cannon to hellfire missiles. However, given that the Apache operates at a lower ceiling, it could be threatened by ISIS MANPAD anti-aircraft missiles. You can watch the Apache in action below.
The extra troops come at a precarious time in the fight against ISIS. The push to retake Mosul was reported to have stalled earlier this month, while ISIS has conducted bombings in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad and continues to harass areas it once held.
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