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Coalition Against IS Pledges More Troops For Iraq

A top American commander says the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State (IS) extremist group has pledged to send an additional 1,500 troops to Iraq.

Lieutenant General James Terry, who is coordinating efforts against IS militants, was speaking on December 8 to reporters traveling with the Pentagon chief in Kuwait.

He said the commitments were made during a conference among coalition members last week.

There are already some 1,500 U.S. troops in Iraq, training and advising the Baghdad government's army and Kurdish forces, and President Barack Obama has approved the deployment of another 1,500 soldiers.

Terry said "the large percentage" of the personnel to be deployed would be training Iraqi troops.

But the U.S. commander did not say which countries would provide the extra troops.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military said American and allied warplanes kept up their aerial campaign against IS targets, with 15 strikes in Syria and 31 across Iraq since December 5.

The coalition was set up after IS militants swept across Iraq, seizing swathes of territory and proclaiming a caliphate in parts of the country and neighboring Syria.

The State Department says nearly 60 nations belong to the coalition, although most play no direct role in air strikes.

Terry said that following more than 1,200 air strikes against IS targets in Iraq and Syria since August, the IS group is "starting to feel pressure."

The militants are "on the defense, trying to hold what they had gained but still able to conduct some limited attacks out there," he said.

The result, he said, was a stalemate on the battlefield in some areas, including in Iraq’s western province of Anbar.

Terry said Iraqi security forces were improving but remained months away from staging large-scale offensives against the militants.

"While they still have a long way to go I think they're becoming more capable every day," he said.

Terry’s remarks echoed comments earlier on December 8 by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who said Iraqi government troops were increasingly taking the fight to the IS militants.

Speaking to reporters during a visit to Camp Buehring in Kuwait, Hagel said support from the U.S.-led coalition has “allowed the Iraqi security forces to take back some ground."

"It's given them some new momentum, organization, structure," he added.

Camp Buehring serves as a staging and logistics hub for U.S. military operations in the Middle East.

Based on reporting by AFP, Reuters, and AP
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