WASHINGTON — The 300 US soldiers and Marines at al Asad air base in Iraq's Anbar province continue to see mortar fire directed at their positions, with six more mortar rounds landing on the sprawling complex last week.
The 2,200 US personnel on the ground in Iraq are busily training 12 Iraqi and Kurdish brigades at facilities located at al Asad, Camp Taji just north of Baghdad, and in the Kurdish controlled north in Erbil.
And while about 900 more American troops are slated to flow into Iraq in the coming weeks, the air war is continuing apace. As of Jan. 11, the US and its allies have flown 15,670 sorties over Iraq and Syria, 1,761 of those involved striking targets on the ground, according to numbers provided by the Pentagon.
While the fight rages on, top American military and civilian officials have been holding meetings with Syrian opposition figures and political leaders in Baghdad.
The American general taking point for training and equipping the moderate Syrian opposition forces, US Army Maj. Gen. Michael Nagata, met with "a broad spectrum of Syrian opposition and civil society leaders in Istanbul, Turkey" on Jan. 12-13, along with US Special Envoy for Syria Daniel Rubinstein, according to a US Central Command statement.
"These meetings provided an important opportunity to introduce and discuss the U.S. train and equip program with members of the moderate political and armed opposition and to gain a better understanding of conditions on the ground in Syria," the statement read.
Speaking with Reuters on Jan. 11, Abadi predicted that the US-led training program would take three years, and that "the most difficult thing is to restructure and build the Army while you are in a state of war. … Our aim is to create a balance between both, restructuring the Army in a way that will not impact the fighting."