The US Is Adding A Ton Of New Firepower In Iraq And Syria To Crush ISIS

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Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter
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The Pentagon is preparing to drastically increase its manpower, firepower and resources in Iraq and Syria in preparation for a pending assault against Islamic State’s last remaining strongholds.

Testifying before the Senate Committee on Armed Services Thursday, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter outlined how the Department of Defense plans to bolster U.S. forces and allies operating against ISIS’s “parent tumor” in Iraq and Syria. While ISIS has lost territory in both countries, it still controls the cities of Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq. Raqqa serves as the so-called caliphate’s de facto capital, while Mosul is the second largest city in Iraq and home to over 20,000 ISIS fighters.

“All of this underscores how we are putting ISIL (ISIS) on the path to a lasting defeat in Iraq and Syria,” said Carter in his opening statement. “And we are now launching a decisive phase of our campaign, as the plays we’re currently executing culminate in the isolation and collapse of ISIL’s control over Raqqa and Mosul.”

One of the most important changes Carter has implemented is the placement of U.S. military advisers at the brigade level within the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) participating in Operation Inherent Resolve. While the change may seem simply administrative, it will give Iraqi commanders operating at the ground level more access to advice from U.S. troops as they engage the enemy.

Additionally, Carter noted that the Pentagon will be sending more High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) batteries to northern Iraq in preparation for the assault on Mosul. The HIMARS allows U.S. forces to provide mobile artillery support to ISF troops as they advance against the enemy, a crucial advantage that has played a large role in recent victories over ISIS.

Carter also noted that the Pentagon has allotted $415 million in aid to the cash-strapped Kurdish Peshmerga. It’s fighting ISIS in the northern regions of Iraq. Kurdish leaders warned that their government was facing a financial crisis in April, causing their soldiers to go without pay for months.

While much of the focus in the fight against ISIS has been centered on Iraq, Carter pointed out that the Pentagon has increased U.S. troop presence in Syria six-fold, from 50 to 300 forces. The additional troops have been tasked with training and equipping Sunni Arab allies.

Despite the progress made on the ground against ISIS, the group has adapted by reverting to more traditional terrorist tactics. ISIS attacks in both the Middle East and the West have drastically increased as the group has lost territory, presenting a challenge that may last beyond the ground war.

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