U.S. Will Send 600 More Troops to Iraq
The U.S. and Iraq have agreed on a plan that will send about 600 additional American troops to Iraq to help retake Mosul from Islamic State, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters in New Mexico, Carter said the increase is part of the coalition's "accelerating campaign" to "isolate and collapse" Islamic State's control over Mosul and "expand gains by Iraqi Security Forces elsewhere in Iraq."
A U.S. defense official put the total number at 615, bringing the number of American troops authorized to fight IS in Iraq at 5,262.
Carter said the additional U.S. military personnel will train, advise and assist Iraqi Security Forces and Kurdish Peshmerga. They also will be used to improve logistics and to intensify intelligence operations with a “special emphasis” on uncovering IS plans to launch terror attacks against Baghdad and the West.
Carter also echoed other top U.S. defense officials who have suggested the battle to retake Mosul could get under way in a matter of weeks.
US Congress Passes Spending Bill to Avoid Potential Shutdown
The U.S. Congress passed a spending bill Wednesday that will keep the government operating for another few months and provide $1.1 billion for efforts to combat the Zika virus.
The measure passed by a margin of 342-85 in the House and 72-26 in the Senate.
Without the extension, many government agencies would have run out of money when the federal fiscal year ends at midnight Friday. The new spending bill runs through December 9.
The breakthrough came after top congressional leaders resolved a stalemate over aid to Flint, Michigan, to help the city address its water crisis. Democratic advocates for Flint are now satisfied with Republican assurances that money for Flint will be finalized after the country's November elections.
The bill also includes $500 million for flood relief in Louisiana and other states.
Democrats in the Senate and House had vowed to oppose the bill until Republicans agreed to an aid package for Flint, a city of more than 100,000 people that has had lead-tainted drinking water for more than two years.
The deal defuses a lengthy, frustrating battle over Zika spending. Democrats claimed a partial victory on Flint while the GOP-dominated Louisiana delegation won a downpayment on Obama's $2.6 billion request for their state.