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US to send up to 450 troops to Iraq

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama ordered the deployment of up to 450 more U.S. troops to Iraq on Wednesday to advise and assist local forces in an effort to reverse the recent gains of the Islamic State.

Under the plan, the United States will open a fifth training site in Iraq, with the goal of integrating Iraqi Security Forces and Sunni fighters. The immediate objective is to retake the city of Ramadi, seized by the Islamic State last month.

Obama made the decision at the request of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and based on advice from Pentagon leaders, the White House said. The U.S. troops will not be used in a combat role.

“These new advisers will work to build capacity of Iraqi forces, including local tribal fighters, to improve their ability to plan, lead, and conduct operations against ISIL in eastern Anbar under the command of the prime minister,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. The Islamic State extremists have seized sizeable areas of both Syria and Iraq.

The plan is not a change in U.S. strategy, the administration says, but addresses a need to get Sunnis more involved in the fight, a much-cited weakness in the current mission.