Carter: U.S. will use air base to recapture Mosul
Jane Onyanga-Omara and Jim Michaels, USA TODAY 9:49 a.m. EDT July 11, 2016
(Photo: Alex Brandon, AP)
The United States will send an additional 560 troops to Iraq to help support a key offensive to retake Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, from the Islamic State, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said in an unannounced visit to Baghdad on Monday.
Carter's announcement follows Iraqi success this past weekend in capturing the Qayara air base, about 40 miles from Mosul. The additional troops will provide logistical and other support for the Mosul offensive.
The new troops will bring the authorized level of U.S. troops in Iraq to about 4,600.
"With the retaking of Qayara West airfield, the Iraqi security forces have once again demonstrated a serious will to fight," Carter said.
Iraqi forces said they seized the Qayara airbase from the militant group, also known as ISIS and ISIL, on Saturday. It will serve as a support base for the Mosul offensive.
“The point of seizing that airfield is to be able to establish a logistics and air hub in the immediate vicinity of Mosul. So, there will be U.S. logistics support," Carter told reporters after arriving in the capital, Baghdad.
Recapturing Mosul will be critical to efforts to defeat the Islamic State, which captured it and other cities in 2014. “Mosul is the prize,” Col. Chris Garver, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, said.
Iraqi forces have been moving toward Mosul from the south and the airfield was considered a key objective, since it will serve as a base from which to support the attack on the city.
Carter is scheduled to meet Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, Defense Minister Khaled al-Obaidi and U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, the head of the U.S.-led coalition combating the Islamic State, Reuters reported.
Last month, Iraqi military leaders said government forces captured the city of Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad, from the group. In the face of battlefield losses the Islamic State has stepped up terrorist bombings in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities that have killed hundreds.