The number of troops on the ground in Iraq as part of a US-led coalition against the so-called ‘Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’ (ISIL) terrorist group now stands at some 8,000, a US official announced on Tuesday.
“The number of coalition forces in Iraq is now 8,000 personnel, including 4,500 Americans,” US Army Lieutenant-Colonel John Dorian said at a press conference held at the US embassy in Baghdad.
This number, he stressed, would not be increased without the express consent of the Iraqi government.
Dorian went on to put the number of militants in Iraq’s ISIL-held city of Mosul at somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000.
“Our intelligence confirms that ISIL militants have dug trenches and erected outposts inside Mosul,” he said. “We expect to see fighting inside the city.”
According to the army official, coalition warplanes have recently carried out a total of 341 airstrikes against ISIL-held petroleum sites in Iraq, which, he asserted, would cut into the funds available to the extremist group.
Coalition warplanes have also recently targeted a pharmaceutical factory in Mosul at which the group was allegedly developing chemical weapons, Dorian added, without providing a date for the airstrikes or a death toll.
In mid-2014, ISIL captured Mosul — Iraq’s second largest city — along with vast swathes of territory in the country’s northern and western regions.
In recent months, the Iraqi army has managed to retake much territory.