Flashpoints

No need for more U.S. troops in Iraq, Pentagon says

The Iraqi army does not need additional U.S. forces right now, top defense officials say.

The U.S. currently has about 3,500 troops in Iraq, far below the latest White House authorization cap of 4,087, defense officials say.

And the Iraqis have not yet tapped the additional military support that Defense Secretary Ash Carter offered to provide a month ago.

Specifically, Carter said April 18 that the U.S. would send AH-64 Apache attack helicopters to provide close-air support for Iraqi ground troops and expand the U.S. advise-and-assist mission for Iraqi units pushing toward the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul.

Yet no attack helicopters have conducted offensive operations and there has been no expansion of the U.S. adviser teams to the Iraqi army's brigade and battalion level, defense officials say.

The Iraqis are setting the pace for the campaign against the Islamic State group, which has been slow.

"Remember, this is the Iraqis' fight," Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said Monday.

Army Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, the top U.S. commander in Iraq has not needed the additional assets and authorities, Cook said.

"Gen. MacFarland has everything he needs right now to carry out this fight against [the Islamic State group]. And he will continue to get additional capabilities as needed, and obviously, in consultation with the Iraqis at every step," Cook said.

Massive political protests from Iraqi Shiites and a spate of truck bombs blamed on the Islamic State group have roiled Baghdad and raised questions about the future of Prime Minister Haider al Abadi's government.

Abadi has been reluctant to accept additional U.S. military support because the American-led military mission is deeply unpopular in Iraq and many factions of his Shiite-led government forcefully oppose it.

In December, Carter traveled to Baghdad and offered to provide attack helicopters and more combat advisers to support the Iraqi army's operation to seize Ramadi. Abadi declined.

Recent terrorist attacks in Baghdad have also raised concerns about security in the city and

Politics in Baghdad are not affecting the U.S.

"Our plans to flow in the additional accelerants remain on track," said Army Col. Steve Warren, a Defense Department spokesman in Baghdad said Friday.

"We do not believe that any of this recent — whether it be ISIL-initiated bombings or … the demonstrations that we've seen — are going to impact our ability to flow these additional forces and get them into position to assist the Iraqi security forces in their efforts to prepare for and eventually liberate Mosul. So no impact," Warren said.

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