As the U.S. expands its war against the Islamic State, the Army is preparing to deploy a division headquarters to Iraq.
Officials have not identified the division that will deploy — the first division headquarters to go to Iraq since the U.S. withdrawal in 2011.
An official announcement is expected in the coming days. But Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno recently confirmed the Army "will send another division headquarters to Iraq to control what we're doing there, a small headquarters."
It's unclear how many soldiers will be sent, or how long they will deploy. Division headquarters average between 100 and 500 soldiers and deploy for one year.
The division headquarters deploying to Iraq is expected to be responsible for coordinating the efforts of the 1,600 troops President Obama has sent to Iraq. Many of these troops are advising and assisting the Iraqi Security Forces, others are providing extra security, while others are providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. The headquarters also is expected to head up the joint operations center that since July has been run by Maj. Gen. Dana Pittard, the deputy commanding general for operations for U.S. Army Central.
Odierno's comments were made Friday to a group of defense reporters in Washington, D.C.
During the wide-ranging interview, Odierno discussed the critical role played by the Army's two-star division headquarters.
"The complexity of the environment that we have to operate in now, and probably the next 10 to 15 to 20 years, we need these headquarters," he said. "If you ask me one of the stress points in the Army, it's our headquarters."
The Army has 10 division headquarters, including two in Afghanistan and one in South Korea.
On Monday night, the U.S. mounted its first airstrikes in Syria, targeting the Islamic State and also the Khorasan group, a little known terrorist cell.
Monday night's massive air assault hitting 22 targets across Syria was a historic operation that signals a new expansion of a war that is likely to last for years.
U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps aircraft dropped precision-guided missiles on two separate and distinct extremists groups, targeting command-and-control headquarters, barracks, training camps logistical nodes and other sites, defense officials said.
"You are seeing the beginning of a sustained campaign," Lt. Gen. William Mayville, the Joint Staff's director of operations, told Pentagon reporters Tuesday.
On Friday, Odierno also emphasized that destroying the Islamic State will be a long-term effort.
"We have to realize this is a long-term threat, this is a long-term commitment," he said. "If you don't believe they want to attack the West and America, you're kidding yourself. That is their goal."
Staff writer Andrew Tilghman contributed to this report.
Michelle Tan is the editor of Army Times and Air Force Times. She has covered the military for Military Times since 2005, and has embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Haiti, Gabon and the Horn of Africa.