U.S. President Barack Obama approves plan to deploy up to 450 additional military personnel to a base in Iraq's Anbar province to train and advise Iraqi forces fighting Islamic State militants -- White House spokesman. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) The United States is expected to announce on Wednesday plans for a new military base in Iraq's Anbar province and the deployment of around 400 additional U.S. trainers to help Iraqi forces in the fight against Islamic State, a U.S. official said. The plan would expand the 3,100-strong U.S. contingent of trainers and advisers in Iraq and would mark an adjustment in strategy for President Barack Obama, who is facing mounting criticism for not being tougher in combating Islamic State. U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, expressed hope that even a modestly strengthened U.S. presence could help Iraqi forces plan and carry out a counter-attack to retake Anbar's capital Ramadi, which insurgents seized last month. However, Obama was expected to stick to his stance against sending U.S. troops into combat or even close to the front lines, officials said. Obama said on Monday the United States did not yet have a complete strategy for training Iraqi security forces to regain land lost to Islamic State fighters, who have seized a third of Iraq over the past year in a campaign marked by mass killings and beheadings. The fall of Ramadi last month drew harsh U.S. criticism of the weak Iraqi military performance and Washington has begun to speed up supplies of weapons to the government forces and examine ways to improve the training program. The expected troop announcement was unlikely to silence Obama's critics, who say the modest contingent of U.S. forces is far from enough to turn the tide of battle. The U.S. deployment would likely entail around 400 trainers, one U.S. official said, adding an announcement was expected on Wednesday. Two other officials also confirmed an expected troop increase of hundreds of troops. U.S. forces have already conducted training at the al-Asad military base in western Anbar but U.S. officials said planning was underway for a new installation near the town of Habbaniya, the site of an Iraqi army base.