WASHINGTON — One thousand soldiers from the famed 82nd Airborne Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team will deploy to Iraq in January to begin training Iraqi and Kurdish brigades, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby announced Friday.
The 1,000 are part of 1,300 service members in total heading for Iraq next month, with the remaining 300 coming from multiple services and serving in counterintelligence, logistics and signals capacities, Kirby said.
Overall, 1,500 US troops are heading for Iraq in early 2015 to serve what are expected to be nine-month tours to train and assist nine Iraqi Army and three Kurdish Peshmerga brigades at several undisclosed sites across Iraq.
While those 1,500 US troops will bring the US contingent in Iraq to about 3,100 troops, they may be joined by as many as 1,500 additional forces from partner nations, according to senior US defense officials.
While the Pentagon will not disclose where the training sites will be, it's known that there are approximately 350 US service members at the al-Asad Air Base in Anbar province west of Baghdad, assisting the 7th Iraqi Division plan missions. Other sites are expected to be in and around Baghdad, and in the north near Erbil.
On Thursday, Lt. Gen. James Terry, commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, warned that the training effort will take "a minimum of three years" in order to build the capabilities of the Iraqi and Kurdish forces.
As this training happens, the Iraqi and Kurdish forces will continue to fight to push Islamic State fighters out of ground they have already won, while also sitting defensively in other areas to blunt their movement south and east.
Terry said that "while several places remain contested, Iraqi security forces have retaken many critical areas. Examples include Mosul Dam, Haditha, Baiji, Muthanna, Karma, Rabiya and Zumar."
But on Friday, it was reported that Islamic State forces had retaken control of much of the town of Baiji after Iraqi forces withdrew in order to concentrate their forces in the adjacent oil refinery — the largest in Iraq — only a month after taking the city with the help of often Iranian-backed Shiite militias.
In a Thursday Wall Street Journal op-ed, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi reiterated his call for more "air support, training and armaments for Iraq's security forces," but also promised to continue to train and equip the Sunni tribes in Anbar province, while absorbing some of them into the Iraqi security forces where possible.