Pentagon: 500 US military forces in Iraq

Photo: Pentagon: 500 US military forces in Iraq / Arab World

The Pentagon says more US forces have arrived in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, bringing the total number of US military forces in the country to 500, Press TV reported.

"Some of them are conducting an advise and assist mission, some are manning the joint operations center, some of them are part of the [Office of Security Cooperation] and yet others are Marines that are part of a [fleet anti-terrorism security team] platoon," Pentagon spokesman Col. Steven Warren said on Thursday, as reported by UPI.

US President Barack Obama has authorized the deployment of 300 "military advisers" to Iraq where Takfiri militants from the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq, who are allied with loyalists of Iraq's former Baathist regime, have taken control of some cities like Tikrit which is the birthplace of former Baathist dictator Saddam Hussein.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon has revealed that the US Special Operations troops arriving in Iraq are being accompanied by armed US Predator drones flying over Baghdad.

The drones, according to the Pentagon, are part of an operation meant to protect US "military advisers" on the ground as they assess the status of Iraqi military forces in the capital.

This comes as US Secretary of State John Kerry has said Washington hopes to enlist so-called "moderate" Syrian militants in the battle against the ISIL militants in neighboring Iraq.

"Obviously, in light of what has happened in Iraq, we have even more to talk about in terms of the moderate opposition in Syria, which has the ability to be a very important player in pushing back against ISIL's presence and to have them not just in Syria, but also in Iraq," Kerry said at the start of a meeting with Syrian militant leader Ahmad al-Jarba on Friday in Jeddah where he also met with Saudi Arabian King Abdullah.

Last week, US Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) said the US has been arming the ISIL militants in Syria. "I think we have to understand first how we got here," Paul said on CNN's 'State of the Union.' "We have been arming ISIS in Syria."

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