(WASHINGTON) — The Pentagon is sending 130 more military advisers to northern Iraq to help local forces in their escalating fight against Islamic militants, officials said Tuesday.
The move shows the Obama administration is weighing the impact and implications of several days of targeted airstrikes on the Islamic State fighters and how that has affected U.S.-backed Kurdish forces opposing them in northern Iraq.
The additional U.S. advisers are not combat troops, and President Barack Obama has said repeatedly he will not send ground forces back into Iraq.
One immediate dilemma is the fate of thousands of displaced civilians in the Sinjar area who have been provided with food and water delivered by U.S. cargo planes in recent days. Washington also is considering how to increase its military assistance to the Kurds, whose militia is outgunned by the militants.
The 130 additional U.S. advisers were going to the city of Irbil, according to a defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity before an official announcement that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was expected to make later.
The 130 are in addition to 90 U.S. military advisers already in Baghdad and 160 in a pair of operations centers — one in Irbil and one in Baghdad — working with Iraqi security forces.
So the new total of U.S. military advisers is 380. They are in addition to about 455 U.S. security forces and 100 military personnel working in the Office of Security Cooperation in the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.