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Obama ‘to send 500 more troops to Iraq’

US President Barack Obama is reportedly preparing to approve the deployment of more US troops to Iraq to train up local forces fighting Islamic State.

He is considering up to 500 additional troops as well as a new training base in Iraq’s Anbar province, unnamed US officials were quoted as saying.

President Obama said earlier this week the US lacked a “complete strategy” for helping Iraq regain territory from IS.

IS has recently made gains in Iraq despite US-led coalition air strikes.

In May the militants seized Ramadi, the capital of Anbar, Iraq’s largest province, as well as the Syrian town of Tadmur and the neighbouring ancient ruins of Palmyra.

IS fighters took control of Iraq’s second city Mosul a year ago this week.

Inside Mosul: What’s life like under Islamic State?

Islamic State: How it is run

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Washington’s National Security Council said it was now “considering a range of options to accelerate the training and equipping of Iraqi security forces”.

“Those options include sending additional trainers,” spokesman Alistair Baskey said.

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told journalists on a visit to Jerusalem that there would be no fundamental change to Mr Obama’s military strategy in Iraq.

But, he added, the service chiefs had “made some recommendations on potential enhancements to the training and equip mission”.

The plan follows months of behind-the-scenes debate within the White House on how to retake Mosul and Ramadi, the New York Times reports.

US officials believe a major factor in the fall of Ramadi was a lack of training of Iraqi forces.

There are currently around 3,000 US military personnel, including trainers and advisers, in Iraq.

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Mr Obama said on Monday that the US did not have a complete strategy in Iraq “because it requires commitments on the part of Iraqis as well about how recruitment takes place, how that training takes place”.

He said that US staff in Iraq sometimes found themselves with “more training capacity than we’ve got recruits”.

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Mr Obama said it was important to draw Sunni Muslims into the fight against IS as they are “willing and prepared to fight… but it has not been happening as fast as it needs to”.

Iraq has become increasingly reliant on Iranian-backed Shia militias to take on IS in recent months.

The move has raised fears of worsening sectarian tensions as the militias try to drive the jihadist fighters out of predominantly Sunni areas like Anbar.

_82319105_ismapSource:https://www.bbc.com

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