The US will send 560 more troops to Iraq to help recapture Mosul from Islamic State militants, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Monday on an unannounced visit to the country. Most of the new troops will be devoted to the buildup of the newly retaken Qayara air base, about 40 miles south of Mosul, and include engineers, logistics personnel, and other forces, Carter said in Baghdad, per the AP. They will help Iraqi security forces planning to encircle and eventually retake the key city. "These additional US forces will bring unique capabilities to the campaign and provide critical enabler support to Iraqi forces," Carter said. He revealed President Obama's decision during a talk to troops at the airport in Baghdad.
Carter called this weekend's recapture of Qayara a key strategic victory. Speaking to reporters before he arrived in Baghdad, he said US advisers are prepared to accompany Iraqi battalions, if needed, as those units begin the siege of the key northern city, which was taken by ISIS in the summer of 2014. "That's its strategic role, and that's its strategic importance," he said of the air base's proposed function as the hub. US officials said a team of American troops went into Qayara for a quick site assessment Sunday and left. One potential job is helping Iraqi troops use highly technical bridging capabilities to get across the river into Mosul. The troop increase brings the total US force authorization in Iraq to 4,647 and comes just after Obama slowed the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. (Read more Iraq stories.)