The U.S. advisers now in Iraq will stay “as long as needed” to ensure the Islamic State does not regain strength and to assist in Iraq stabilization efforts, a top spokesman for the U.S. and coalition effort said Sunday.
U.S. advisers now assist Iraqi security forces in cleaning up the remaining remnants of ISIS in Iraq, particularly in Anbar province were small pockets of the organization are still targeting local infrastructure.
The U.S. and coalition forces are also involved in stabilization efforts, including assisting in the resettlement of formerly displaced Iraqi civilians and in using the military’s vast logistics and planning resources to help get civil infrastructure up and running again in cities devastated by their former ISIS occupants.
Army Col. Sean Ryan, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, said during a news conference in Abu Dhabi that those efforts would continue and the stabilization was “one of the reasons we’ll maintain a presence,” Reuters reported.
On Monday, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Rob Manning reiterated those comments, saying the 5,200 service members the U.S. reports it has in Iraq, and the 2,000 in Syria will remain unchanged. The Pentagon does not report publicly how many troops it actually accounts for in either country, saying that to do so would put troops at risk.
“The coalitions presence is designed to meet our partner’s support requirement. We have what we need and we’ll take forces out of theater when the job is done,” Manning told reporters at the Pentagon Monday.
The military’s mission in Iraq is now directed by the Iraqi government, which requested additional NATO forces to assist in training earlier this year. NATO approved the request in July and is sending 500 troops who will be led by a Canadian general.
Tara Copp is the Pentagon Bureau Chief for Military Times and author of the award-winning military nonfiction "The Warbird: Three Heroes. Two Wars. One Story."