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British general hints at more U.S. troops to Iraq

While cautioning the idea is “pre-decisional,” a British general working with the U.S. in Iraq indicated Thursday that U.S. commanders may seek additional U.S. trainers to help Iraqi forces “sustain their momentum” against the Islamic State. British Army Maj. Gen. Doug Chalmers, briefing reporters at the Pentagon via teleconference, said high-level discussions are underway about what additional capabilities might be needed to accelerate the progress of Iraqi troops, but insisted it was the sort of routine review that is always underway. “We’re constantly looking to see if we’re right-sized.”

Chalmers is on the staff of Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, the U.S. commander of coalition forces battling the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

“General MacFarland is sort of leading up with his chain of command, and it is a dialogue. And so, it’s pre-decisional at this moment, items are being discussed,” Chalmers told reporters. Subscribe today to get intelligence and analysis on defense and national security issues in your Inbox each weekday morning from veteran journalists Jamie McIntyre and Jacqueline Klimas.

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But Pentagon officials immediately said there were no new requests pending from MacFarland, noting that under the troop cap of 4,087, the U.S. commander has plenty of leeway to move more U.S. troops in without making additional requests. The number of U.S. troops in Iraq is around 3,600, several hundred under the authorized limit. Chalmers said Iraqi forces performed “much better on the battlefield” during the Fallujah operation, which he credited to improved coordination and confidence. He said more trainers might be helpful in building on that success, but declined to say how many how soon.

“To put a figure on it at this time, as this dialogue is ongoing, would be wrong of me,” he said, although he quickly dismissed a reporter’s question about whether the number could be in the thousands.

“I can guarantee you, it’s not the thousands, but it would be wrong of me to take it any further than that.”

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