President Obama on Friday authorized boosting the U.S. troop level in Iraq to more than 3,000 in a non-combat mission and also said he would seek $5.6 billion in additional funding for the campaign to destroy the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
Obama acted on the recommendation for additional troops from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who was responding to a request from the Baghdad government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi for more U.S. troops to train, advise and equip the Iraqi Security Forces, Pentagon officials said.
Currently, there are about 1,400 U.S. troops in Iraq with an authorization for that contingent to go up to 1,600, Pentagon officials said, and the 1,500 added troops would bring the troop level to 3,100.
A senior White House official, speaking on background, said the $5.6 billion in additional funding would be tacked onto the current request of $58.6 billion for Fiscal Year 2015 Overseas Contingency Operations, which is separate from the defense base budget.
About $3.4 billion from the total of $5.6 billion would go to the ongoing operations of the U.S. effort, including airstrikes and intelligence, the official said.
Another $1.6 billion would go to the train, advise and equip role and $524 million would go to the State Department for diplomatic and humanitarian assistance efforts, the official said.
"Our expectation is that this will get resolved in the lame duck session" of Congress, the official said of Congressional approval of the $5.6 billion.
The authorization to send more troops included approval to expand the areas in which they will operate. Currently, U.S. trainers and advisers are limited to Joint Operations Centers in Baghdad and Irbil, the capital of the Kurdish region.
In a statement, Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said that the U.S. Central Command will establish several sites across Iraq, including in western Anbar province," that will accommodate the training of 12 Iraqi brigades, specifically nine Iraqi army and three Peshmerga (Kurdish) brigades."
"These sites will be located in northern, western, and southern Iraq," Kirby said. Coalition partners will join U.S. personnel at these locations to help build Iraqi capacity and capability."
A second senior White House official denied that the additional troops amounted to "mission creep" that the administration has sought to avoid.
"The mission has not changed at all for our service members," the official said. The mission was still to train and advise, the official said, and "even with these additional personnel, the mission is not changing."
The Pentagon official would not rule out that more troops would be sent to Iraq, in addition to the 1,500. The "limiting principle" was on the restriction of the mission to the training and advisory role, he said.
"I don't want to suggest a specific ceiling," the official said.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at email@example.com