could decide on greater troop presence in Iraq soon: general
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[March 31, 2016]
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President
Barack Obama will have the chance to decide on whether to increase the
number of U.S. forces in Iraq in the "coming weeks," the top U.S.
general said on Wednesday.
The extra troops would bolster the capabilities of Iraqi forces
preparing for a major offensive against the Islamic State militant
group in Mosul, U.S. Marine General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a news briefing.
U.S. and Iraqi military officials have been discussing a plan to
retake Mosul, which fell to Islamic State in June 2014, and how U.S.
forces could support their efforts, Dunford said.
"Those recommendations are being made and the president will have an
opportunity to make some decisions here in the coming weeks,"
Dunford said. "I brought it to the secretary (Defense Secretary Ash
Carter). The secretary will engage with the president."
Dunford said last week he expected an increase in the level of U.S.
forces in Iraq from the current 3,800, but that those decisions had
not been finalized.
U.S. officials have said they hope to capitalize on recent
battlefield successes against Islamic State, such as the retaking of
Ramadi by Iraqi forces late last year.
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"The timing really now is focused on the next phase of the campaign,
which is towards Mosul, and maintaining the kind of momentum that we
had in Ramadi," Dunford said.
(Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Peter Cooney)
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