Soldiers board their plane for deployment at Libby Army Airfield. | US Army photo by Gabrielle Kuholski
The U.S. was preparing to send 600 more troops to Iraq for the long-awaited offensive to drive the Islamic State from the stronghold of northwestern Mosul, where ISIS fighters were expected to use mustard gas to blunt the attack, Pentagon officials said Wednesday.
The official announcement was expected to come later in the day the additional troops, who were expected to operate as trainers and enablers mostly out of the logistics hub for the offensive at the Qayyarah West airfield about 40 miles southeast of Mosul.
Earlier this week, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman said that ISIS was "dead set" on using chemical weapons to defend Mosul. Last week, a shell fired by ISIS near U.S. troops in Qayyarah was initially thought to contain blistering mustard gas but later tests showed that it was not a chemical weapon.
Army Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, also said that ISIS was attempting to turn Mosul into a "living hell" for the attacking force by setting out extensive fields of improvised explosive devices and even filling trenches with oil.
The troops would be in addition to the 4,647 currently authorized for Iraq by President Obama and were requested by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
In a statement, Abadi said "American President Barack Obama was consulted on a request from the Iraqi government for a final increase in the number of trainers and advisers under the umbrella of the international coalition in Iraq," Reuters reported.