U.S. considers sending 500 additional forces to Iraq

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WASHINGTON (CNN) — President Barack Obama’s administration is considering sending about 500 additional forces to Iraq, with many of them focused on training Iraqi troops, a senior administration official told CNN Tuesday.

The military had been considering multiple options, one of which could have sent as many as 1,000 troops to Iraq, but it appeared as if the administration was zeroing in on a number closer to 500 late Tuesday, the official said. A final decision is expected soon.

It’s not clear how many of those troops would be used to help train Iraqi forces or be used for other purposes, such as security, air support or medical help.

The United States anticipates Iraq adding military training sites. The number of additional forces would likely reach around 500 if new training locations are opened in Anbar province or other places.

One of the options being considered would have U.S. forces directly train — but not arm — Sunni tribes, another senior U.S. official said.

The Associated Press reported earlier Tuesday that the administration was considering sending up to 1,000 U.S. forces to the country.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey told reporters traveling with him in Jerusalem on Tuesday that Obama has asked military brass to “take a look at what we’ve learned over the last eight months in the train-and-equip program and make recommendations to him on whether there are capabilities that we may want to provide to the Iraqis to actually make them more capable.”

“He’s asked us to look at whether there are other locations where we might establish training sites,” Dempsey said. “He’s asked us to take a look at how we might develop Iraq’s leaders.”

There are currently 3,050 U.S. forces in Iraq — with 2,250 of them devoted to supporting Iraqi security forces, 800 protecting U.S. personnel and facilities, 450 training Iraqi troops and 200 in advising and assisting roles.

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