Washington: The US will send 350 more troops to Iraq to protect its facilities and personnel in Baghdad but they will not engage in combat, the White House has announced.
“The request approved today (by President Barack Obama) will allow some previously deployed military personnel to depart Iraq, while at the same time providing a more robust, sustainable security force for our personnel and facilities in Baghdad,” the White House said in a statement late Tuesday.
The new deployment brings the number of US military personnel in Iraq to more than a thousand, a presence reinforced since the current crisis with the Islamic State (IS) Sunni extremist organisation broke out a month ago.
“This builds upon previous embassy security deployments announced June 15 and June 30 and will bring the total forces responsible for augmenting diplomatic security in Iraq up to approximately 820,” said the US Department of Defense in a statement.
“With this order, 55 personnel who have been in Baghdad since June will redeploy outside of Iraq. Those 55 personnel will remain postured to deal with other security contingencies in the region, if necessary,” the Pentagon added.
The announcement of the new deployment came hours after the IS released a video Tuesday allegedly depicting the beheading of a second American journalist, Steven Sotloff.
The US government is investigating the footage to confirm its authenticity.
Just three days after the IS posted a video showing the beheading of American journalist James Foley, the SITE Intelligence Group that monitors militants’ movements, published images of the alleged killing of Sotloff by an IS militant.
In the video, titled “A Second Message to the US”, Sotloff’s executioner says his death is in retaliation to the US air strikes against IS positions in Iraq, and threatens to kill a third Western hostage, David Cawthorne Haines of Britain.
However, the Pentagon said Tuesday that it will continue the airstrikes in Iraq until the extremist militia is ousted from strategic positions the group holds in the north of the country.