US may open more bases in Iraq
The U.S. might establish more bases in Iraq following the model of the al-Taqaddum air base in Anbar province, the chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff said Thursday.
The comments by Gen. Martin Dempsey came one day after the Obama administration announced it is going to deploy 450 troops to be stationed at the airbase.
Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren told reporters that his agency is actively considering where to establish other bases but the assessment would be informed by the achievements in al-Taqaddum.
Warren also pointed out that the base will play a key role in connecting the Iraqi government with Sunni tribes.
Noting the difference between the newly opened base in al-Taqaddum and other American bases in Iraq, he said the mission is not a basic combat training one but rather an advise and assist mission.
The Iraqis recently established a command and control structure in al-Taqaddum dedicated to Sunni tribal outreach, and according to Warren U.S. advisers who will be deployed there will be integrated into that structure.
Iraqi forces have trained several hundred Sunni tribal forces and the U.S. announcement Wednesday to send 450 troops was a result of a long assessment about how to ramp up the number of Sunni forces fighting Daesh.
"The operation in al-Taqaddum could potentially one day in the future expanded to do training --basic combat skills training, as well," Warren said.
When asked how U.S. forces would facilitate relations between Sunni tribes and the Iraqi government, he said Sunni tribal leaders would be invited to the base to discuss the benefit of joining Iraqi forces in fighting Daesh.
The additional troop deployment will bring the total number of U.S. forces in the country to more than 3,500.
The plan is an attempt to offset recent battlefield losses and help Iraqi forces prepare for a campaign to retake Anbar province from Daesh militants.