WASHINGTON – About 4,600 foreign troops will be available in Iraq to help train Iraqi and Kurdish forces, a senior U.S. commander told reporters Monday in Kuwait.
Following a conference this month among members of the U.S.-led coalition that has been launching airstrikes against Islamic State fighters in Iraq, allies have committed to send about 1,500 troops to Iraq — bolstering the 3,100 U.S. troops already committed to the mission — said Lt. Gen. James Terry, who commands all coalition efforts in Iraq and Syria.
The international coalition, part of the recently established Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), commanded by Terry from his headquarters in Kuwait, have already conducted more than 1,200 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.
But the focus of this effort is on training. A from the Task Force on Monday said the "Advise and Assist and Build Partner Capacity sites are intended to generate capable security forces," that can act on their own to push IS forces out of Iraq and ensure internal stability.
In the four-day span from Friday to Monday, the alliance conducted 31 airstrikes across Iraq, hitting IS sites in Ramadi, Mosul, Qaim, Sinjar, Kirkuk, Hit and Tal Afar. At the same time, there were 15 airstrikes against IS in Syria, near the embattled town of Kobane on the Turkish border and Raqqa, an IS stronghold.
"When you start now to balance the different capabilities out across the coalition, I think we're doing pretty well in terms of boots on the ground," Terry told reporters traveling in the region with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
Last month, the Obama administration submitted a $5.6 billion request for additional funding to fight IS in Iraq and Syria, which includes $1.6 billion to establish the Iraq Train and Equip Fund, which would pay for training Iraqi and Kurdish forces, plus a hefty new operations and maintenance request for the services to operate fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft in Iraq and Syria.
Pentagon officials have confirmed that the cost of air operations for Operation Inherent Resolve over Iraq and Syria has been $8.3 million a day from the start of the bombing campaign on Aug. 8, which would put the cost at more than $1 billion through Monday.
Defense officials have refused to offer a cost estimate for flowing hundreds of U.S. troops into Baghdad from June 16 to Aug. 8, however, although Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby has estimated that the mission cost $7.5 million a day from June 16 onward.
Using that number, operations from June 16 to Aug. 7 would have run approximately $397 million, adding up to roughly $1.3 billion overall, which has come out of the fiscal 2014 $58 billion war funding appropriation.