U.S.-trained Iraqi Forces Prepare for Ramadi Offensive Against Islamic State


U.S.-trained Iraqi soldiers are preparing for an offensive against the Islamic State in the Iraqi city of Ramadi, defense officials said Thursday, in a key test of the Obama administration’s strategy for defeating the militant group.

About 3,000 U.S.-trained soldiers have taken positions around Ramadi in the past few days, the first time that Iraqi army troops trained by American advisers over the past year have been deployed for an offensive against the Islamic State.

Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said the deployment of the two U.S.-trained brigades, part of a larger Iraqi force around Ramadi, was significant because they were well trained and better equipped than many other Iraqi army units. He said the brigades advanced about four miles on Wednesday. “We’ve already seen progress,” he told reporters in Baghdad.

News of the developments came as Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter made his first trip to Baghdad since assuming his post in February.

The brief visit by Carter, who has openly questioned Iraqi forces’ will to fight, aimed to assess the Baghdad government’s efforts to improve the state security forces and recruit Iraq’s minority Sunnis, whose support U.S. officials view as key to defeating the Islamic State.

American officials hope that fielding the U.S.-trained troops around Ramadi will yield the first signs that the Iraqi army is regaining its footing a year after it partially collapsed in the face of the Islamic State’s advances. Until now, army units trained by the United States since last year have conducted only defensive operations.

In coming months, the Obama administration will have to decide whether it will send additional U.S. troops to Iraq or deploy Americans closer to the front lines to ensure that Iraqi forces can accelerate their fitful progress against the militant group, also known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh.

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SOURCE: Missy Ryan 
The Washington Post

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