Iraqi soldiers participate in a training exercise with American and Spanish trainers at Basmaya base, 40 kilometers southeast of Baghdad, Iraq, on Jan. 24, 2016. AP photo
BY COURTNEY KUBE and JON SCHUPPE, NBC News
(NBC News) - The United States will send 217 more troops, including additional special operations forces, to Iraq to expand a train-and-advise effort there to help government forces fight ISIS, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Monday morning.
The financially strapped Iraqis have also accepted America's offer of Apache attack helicopters and an additional HIMARS rocket system as they prepare to try to retake the city of Mosul from the terror group, Carter said.
The move will boost the total number of U.S. troops in Iraq to 4,087, a senior U.S. military official said.
The United States will also contribute $415 million to the Peshmerga, a Kurdish military group.
The announcement came as Carter visited Iraq as part of a swing through the Middle East in which he also asked allies in the region to help in the effort to rebuild parts of Iraq destroyed during the war with ISIS.
Talk of sending more U.S. troops to Iraq began last month, as the country's own military geared up to take the city of Mosul from ISIS — considered a key to regaining control of the country. While Obama has been reluctant to send more American troops there — he was elected on a promise to withdraw, and announced its fulfillment in 2011 — defeating ISIS is the one big exception.
Last June, the president said he would send hundreds of military personnel to train Iraqi troops in Anbar province, where it had been losing ground to ISIS, adding to the 3,000 Americans already on the ground in advisory and training roles. The United States has also been conducting airstrikes against the terror group and trying to disrupt its finance network.
Since then, American troops, namely special operations units, have engaged in several anti-ISIS operations. Late last year, the United States helped the Iraqis prepare to seize the city of Ramadi from ISIS.
Now the United States wants to try to capitalize on some of that momentum as Iraq struggles with economic and political turbulence.
During his visit to Baghdad, Carter was expected to meet with Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, the top U.S. military commander for the Islamic State fight, as well as a number of Iraqi leaders including Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and Defense Minister Khalid al-Obeidi, according to The Associated Press. He was also expected to speak by phone with the president of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, Massoud Barzani.