The U.S. military is sending an additional two companies of soldiers to Iraq to help Iraqi troops fighting to retake Mosul from ISIS, defense officials confirmed to ABC News.
Two companies of soldiers is equal to between 200 to 300 soldiers.
Additional members of the 82nd Airborne Division’s second combat brigade are deploying to Iraq on a temporary mission to provide additional “advise and assist” support to Iraqi forces, Colonel Joseph Scrocca, a spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve told ABC News.
“This is not a new capability,” said Scrocca. “It provides more advise and assist assets to our Iraqi partners.”
This unit of the 82nd Airborne already has 1,700 soldiers in Iraq and Kuwait helping with the advise and assist mission for Iraqi troops.
“The number of soldiers does not equate to the remainder of the brigade as had previously been surmised,” said Scrocca. News reports in recent weeks had said the Pentagon was considering sending possibly as many as 1,000 additional members from the brigade for the advise and assist mission in Mosul.
The authorized troop cap for Iraq is 5,262 though the real number is probably 6,000 with the presence of additional troops on temporary assignment. These new troops won’t count towards the cap because they’re on temporary assignment.
In mid-February the Iraqi military began a final push to retake western Mosul from ISIS after having seized the eastern half of the city in a fierce 100-day battle that began in October. Iraqi troops are now facing stiff resistance from ISIS fighters as they fight through the tight quarters of the older western half of the city.
In Syria there are currently about 900 U.S. forces advising and assisting the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighting ISIS, even though the authorized troop level is 503.
The higher number is due to the recent addition of a Marine artillery unit helping with the SDF’s offensive outside of Raqqa and a small complement of Army Rangers sent to the city of Manbij to ensure that Turkish-backed forces and SDF forces do not fight each other.
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ABC News: International