Two companies from the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division are being deployed to the Middle East to bolster security in either Iraq or Syria at the request of the top American commander in Baghdad fighting ISIS, a U.S. defense official with knowledge of the order told Fox News.
It is not immediately clear where the roughly 200 additonal troops will end up. That decision will be made by Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the top commander of the U.S.-led coalition charged with running the war against ISIS on the ground.
The Pentagon was expected to provide more details on the deployment Monday.
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In recent weeks, multiple press reports said upwards of 1,000 additional American troops would deploy to Kuwait or Syria to act as a “reserve force.” These reports were said to be inaccurate by multiple Pentagon officials.
“I don’t foresee us bringing in large numbers of coalition troops, mainly because what we’re doing is in fact working,” said Townsend in a press briefing with Pentagon reporters earlier this month.
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Some of the additional forces from the 82nd Airborne Division will head to the Qayyarah Airfield West, or “Q-West” as the soldiers call it, the official said. U.S. forces have occupied the former Iraqi military base since the summer. Currently, Apache gunships and GPS-guided rocket systems called HIMARS are based there roughly 40 miles south of Mosul to support the ongoing battle for Iraq’s second largest city.
In Hamam al-Alil, 15 miles south of Mosul, a U.S. Army artillary battery has also been supporting the Iraqi-led operation into West Mosul in recent months.
The fight against ISIS in Mosul has stretched longer than five months. In an exclusive interview with Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday,” Iraq Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi predicted ISIS will be defeated in the next few weeks.
“We are defeating them militarily,” he said.
In neighboring Syria, a U.S. Marine artillary battery has been supporting a US-led air assault roughly 30 miles west of Raqqa, the de facto ISIS capital, in recent days.
Last week, hundreds of Syrian Arab and Kurdish fighters — accompanied by a handful of U.S. special operations forces — were inserted via U.S. military helicopters outside the city of Tabqa, where a strategic dam has been in ISIS hands since 2014.
Earlier Sunday, the U.S.-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced they had captured a strategic airfield in the city, located approximately 30 miles west of Raqqa.
Lucas Tomlinson is the Pentagon and State Department producer for Fox News Channel. You can follow him on Twitter: @LucasFoxNews