Despite daily mortar attacks from ISIS militants on the al-Assad airbase in Iraq, U.S. military senior defense officials have claimed the attacks have been “completely ineffective.”
According to NBC News, U.S. military troops are training Iraqi security forces at the airbase. There are approximately 320 Marines located on the base, which is situated north of Baghdad. Their mission is to train, advise and assist Iraqi forces in tactics against ISIS. About 200 Sunni tribesmen are being trained as well, as they join the efforts to fight against the militants.
Col. Steve Warren said, “No U.S. personnel or U.S. equipment” have come under direct fire at the base. He described the routine bombardment of mortars directed at al-Assad as “nuisance attacks.”
In addition to the U.S. personnel at al-Assad, there is 170 American soldiers from the Army’s 1st Infantry Division in Taji, southwest of Baghdad. They are training Iraqi security forces as well.
NBC News reported that currently there are 2,140 American soldiers and Marines in Iraq. Eight hundred are protection forces, providing security for the U.S. embassy and military personnel. They are also training Iraqi security forces at several locations in Iraq. Within a few weeks, two new training facilities at Irbil and Besmaya are expected to open.
Col. Warren repeated today that no U.S. service members have been engaged in combat or have been wounded by enemy fire and that all U.S. military personnel have the “inherent right of self-defense” should they deem it necessary if they come under attack.
By early spring, the total number of U.S. military forces on the ground in Iraq is expected to reach 3,000, as authorized by President Obama.