US considers opening more military hubs in Iraq to fights ISIS

Reuters / Stringer
In addition to enlarging a training base in the battered Iraqi Anbar province, the Pentagon is considering opening similar facilities at other sites. The US is also reportedly itching for special operation raids against Islamic State.

On Wednesday, the Department of Defense announced the expansion of the Taqaddum base just 25 kilometers from provincial capital Ramadi, which fell into the hands of Islamic State (IS, formerly known as ISIS/ISIL) forces last month.

Some 450 additional US troops will be involved in training Iraqi volunteers, who will later fight against the extremists. Enrolling Sunnis, who are a majority in the province, is a particular goal of the campaign. So far Sunni fighters have avoided American training.

The Taqaddum experience may be replicated in other parts of Iraq, General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a small group of reporters before landing in Naples on Thursday.

"At the planning level, it's not theoretical. It's very practical, looking at geographic locations, road networks, airfields, places where we can actually establish these hubs," he said. "I could conceive of one potentially somewhere in the corridor that runs from Baghdad to Tikrit to Kirkuk and over into Mosul. So we're looking at that area."

READ MORE: White House hopes new Iraq base will boost Sunni recruitment

The additional deployment is allegedly accompanied by a covert relocation of elite commando troops of the US 82nd Airborne Division to Iraq and other Gulf countries. By the end of 2015, as many as 1,000 officers and soldiers will be sent to Baghdad and the Kurdish regional capital Irbil, the Israeli security news website DEBKAfile reported, citing military sources.

It’s said that some of the troops will be involved in raids on key Islamic State targets, such as columns on the march and top commanders. They hope to repeat the successful assassination of a top IS financier in eastern Syria on May 16, the report said.

“The history of 82nd Airborne includes toppling dictators and extraction-type activities,” retired US Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski told RT.

It is there to train, to give moral support to the Iraqis, to gather intelligence, to help develop an on-the-ground strategy. The 82nd may be called into action if the President Obama decides to take this kind of action.

US military officials say it will take several years to defeat IS, which remains a serious threat and manages to compensate for casualties and territory loses with worldwide recruitment of fighters and successful offensive operations. The Iraqi army continues to perform poorly against IS troops, with US military commanders complaining of poor morale among the Iraqis.