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Denmark to help Iraq 'go on offence' against Isis

AFP/The Local · 8 Nov 2014, 09:07

Published: 08 Nov 2014 09:07 GMT+01:00

Meeting with US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel at the Pentagon on Friday, Denmark's defence minister Nicolai Wammen committed to help the Americans train Iraqi forces to combat the terrorist group Isis.
Following the meeting, Pentagon officials said that the US's partners in the anti-Isis coalition would send up to 700 troops to help train and advise Iraqi troops as the US unveiled plans to roughly double the number of US soldiers in Iraq. Of the 700 coalition trainers, Denmark will supply 120. 
"I had a very good meeting with my American colleague Chuck Hagel. He thanked us for the Danish response to ISIL [an alternate name for Isis, ed.] and we strongly agreed that it is important that those of us in the coalition continue the fight against the terrible terrorist organisation event though it will be a difficult and lengthy task," Wammen said in a statement. 
US President Barack Obama on Friday announced that he plans to send 1,500 additional troops to Iraq to help Baghdad government forces strike back at Isis jihadists.
The move marked a deepening US commitment in the open-ended war against the Isis group, three months since American aircraft launched air strikes against the Sunni extremists.
The move extends the US training and advising mission to new areas as Iraqi and Kurdish forces prime themselves to recapture ground lost to Isis, including in the volatile Anbar province in the west where the Iraqi army has been on the retreat.
The reinforcements were "part of our strategy for strengthening partners on the ground" but the troops would have a "non-combat role," the White House said in a statement.
The United States already is carrying out air strikes against Isis in Iraq and Syria but officials insisted the decision did not signal "mission creep" towards another all-out ground war.
"They will not be introduced into combat," a senior administration official told reporters.
The US forces will be carrying out the same mission that has been outlined from the start -- to help the Iraqi forces on the ground, the official said.
"The mission is not changing at all for our service members," the official said. "We are adding personnel to better carry out the mission."
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The 1,500 US troops will include roughly 600 advisors to help Iraqi forces plan operations and nearly 900 trainers who will be deployed across the country.
To fund the growing war effort, Obama also planned to request $5.6 billion from Congress, including $1.6 billion to train and arm the Iraqi forces, officials said. The additional troops would not deploy until Congress approved the funding.
Sceptics of Obama's strategy question if the Iraqi army can be salvaged as long as Sunni tribes feel alienated by the Shiite-led government in Baghdad. But officials said they were hopeful a new Iraqi defence minister would reinvigorate the army, which virtually collapsed earlier this year against the onslaught of the IS group.
"One of the reasons why we think this is a good idea right now is because the Iraq security forces have stiffened their spine and have gone on the offence," Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said.  

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AFP/The Local (news.denmark@thelocal.com)

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