WASHINGTON, Sept. 11, 2014 – The Defense Department provided details today for the additional service members President Barack Obama announced will deploy to Iraq as part of the strategy against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby discussed when troops will begin to arrive and their intended mission.
“I think you’re going to start to see these additional 475 arrive in the coming days,” he said. “Probably over the next week or so, you’ll … see them start to arrive.”
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Transition to advise-and-assist mission
Kirby said the six assessment teams now in Iraq will transition to an advise-and-assist mission.
“They will be reinforced by additional troops as the president announced, and I provided some details on last night,” he said.
“We’re talking about somewhere between 15 and 20 advise-and-assist teams total when they’re all there and manned up.”
“The level at which they will be providing advice and assistance is at the brigade or higher headquarters level,” the admiral said.
The United States will continue to man and support the joint operations centers in Irbil and Baghdad, Kirby said, and there will continue to be an advise-and-assist role for those manning those joint operations centers.
The admiral emphasized that the advise-and-assist teams are not intended to have a combat role, such as foot patrols or any similar types of missions.
“And of course — we’ve said this before — they’ll always have the right of self-defense,” he added.
“I think the president was clear that we’re going to intensify our efforts inside Iraq,” Kirby said. “There’s no question about that, and you know we’re going to be as transparent with you as we can about what we’re hitting and why we’re hitting it. The direction we got from the commander in chief was very clear. We’re going to be more aggressive in supporting the Iraqi security forces on the ground.”
Working with new Iraqi government
Kirby noted the United States is “eager” to work with the new Iraqi government, which he called “a new unity government.”
“All of the signs are pointing to a much more inclusive political process that’s responsive to all Iraqis, to include a more responsible management of the Iraqi security forces,” he said. “The vectors are pointing in the right way.”
The admiral said that because that government has just stood up, much work remains to be done. “The difference is now we have a new government — a government that has publically proclaimed a desire to be much more inclusive and responsible. Things are pointing in the right direction,” he added.
The admiral also discussed training and equipping properly vetted elements of the moderate Syrian armed opposition.
“The train-and-equip money … we obviously still want that $500 million,” Kirby said. “[As] you know, we put that in the fiscal year  overseas contingencies operation budget.”
Officials are working with members of Congress to try to get the funds approved and appropriated, Kirby said.
“Obviously, we need that money to be able to move forward on this particular train-and-equip program,” Kirby said, noting that it’s a priority for Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.