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Posted by SGT Hunter - Gruntworks Staff Writer on Mar 27th 2017
(photo from CNN)
Gruntworks Media Bunker - Earlier Sunday, the U.S.-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced they had captured Tabqa Airbase, located approximately 30 miles west of Raqqa. U.S. forces have provided substantial air and ground support to the SDF, helping them close in on the ISIS capital. The airfield is the first major acquisition for the group forces since U.S. forces airlifted hundreds of SDF forces, as well as U.S. military advisers and U.S. artillery, behind ISIS lines five days ago.
When the Tabqa air base was captured by ISIS militants from the Syrian government in August 2014, they murdered about 200 government soldiers at the base. The mass killing was recorded and distributed on video over social media.
As the fight against ISIS continues in Iraq and Syria, the top American commander in Baghdad, Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, has requested more troops on the ground. Two companies from the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division are being deployed to the Middle East to bolster security in either Iraq or Syria. It’s unclear where the troops will be deployed, but they will be part of the American-backed forces fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Lt. Gen. Townsend, will make the final decision on where and how the troops will be used once they arrive in country.
In recent weeks, there have been several reports stating that approximately 1,000 - 2,500 US troops would be deploying to the Middle East as a reserve force in case they are needed by US commanders working with local security forces fighting ISIS. However, Pentagon officials have stated that these reports are inaccurate. Lt. Gen. Townsend stated in a press briefing "I don't foresee us bringing in large numbers of coalition troops, mainly because what we're doing is in fact working,".
Lt. Gen. Townsend’s statement is backed up by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi. On Sunday Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi predicted that his country will defeat Islamic State military forces “within weeks”. But he acknowledged the terror group will probably continue to exist until it’s eradicated in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.
Units from the 82nd Airborne Division will head to the Qayyarah Airfield West, or "Q-West" as the soldiers call it, the official said. U.S. forces have occupied the former Iraqi military base since last summer. Currently, Apache gunships and GPS-guided rocket systems called HIMARS are based there, 40 miles south of Mosul, to support the ongoing battle for Iraq's second largest city.
American forces have also been deployed to Hamam al-Alil, which is located approximately 15 miles south of Mosul. A U.S. Army artillery battery has also been supporting the Iraqi-led operation into West Mosul in recent months.
In an interview with Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday," Iraq Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi predicted ISIS will be defeated in the next few weeks. The fight against ISIS in Mosul has stretched longer than five months.
Updates to follow as this situation develops.
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