In an effort to gain back the upper hand from the Islamic State group in Iraq, the U.S. will send hundreds more military advisers to help the government in Baghdad develop a strategy to defeat the Sunni militants, pushing them out of key areas such as the western city of Ramadi. The new reinforcements will bring the number of U.S. troops in Iraq to 3,600.
According to various media reports, the U.S. is prepared to send anywhere between 400 and 500 military advisers to a base in Anbar province. Several hundred military advisers are already stationed at the Ain al Asad air base in the province.
The announcement comes just a few weeks after the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, captured the city of Ramadi. Fighters in the city told International Business Times that wealthy Sunni tribesmen, who later pledged allegiance to the group, funneled cash and weapons to ISIS, while the U.S. was training other Sunnis to fight the same group.
Following the takeover of Ramadi, the Iraqi government lost momentum in the battle against ISIS, which now controls a swath of land that stretches from the northern city of Mosul, west to Anbar province and all the way down to the outskirts of Baghdad.
Since then, the U.S. and the Iraqi government have strategized on how best to take on the Sunni militant group. The deployment of the new military advisers is part of the plan to unleash a new Sunni fighting force aimed at halting the ISIS advance.
The plan is also supposed to help the Iraqi military realize its long-promised goal to retake the northern city of Mosul, whose fall to ISIS last year heralded the rise of the militant army. When the government’s forces managed to retake Tikrit last month -- a landmark on the road to Mosul -- they did so only with the assistance of Shiite-dominated militias known as Hashd al Shabi, or Popular Mobilization Committees.
But those Shiite militias will not lead the charge on Ramadi, which sits in the middle of a Sunni-dominated territory where they are not welcome.