Iraq PM: No US combat troops to stay in Iraq after IS

Iraqi security forces on Thursday announced that they have opened a new front in the operation against the Islamic State (IS) militants to seize the war-torn Mosul city, the media reported.

Roughly 9,000 American service members are deployed in Afghanistan, training and advising Afghan National Security Forces under Operation Resolute Support.

In the past few days, Iraqi forces had already prepared for the launch of the fresh front by opening a new exit for trapped civilians, who live in dire humanitarian conditions in the ISIS enclave.

As the fight to liberate Mosul continues, a USA military spokesman told reporters on Wednesday, "We think that there are fewer than a thousand fighters left in the city - probably well short of a thousand fighters".

Such an agreement would underscore how the fight against IS has drawn the US into a deepening role in Iraq.

While an increased USA military commitment in Iraq could build on recent battlefield victories against ISIS, the proposed US troop surge in Afghanistan is needed to break the stalemate in the war there. The numbers were wound down eventually to 40,000 before the complete withdrawal in 2011.

Over the almost three-year fight against Islamic State, Iraqi forces with US-led coalition backing have retaken some 65 percent of rebel-controlled territory, according to the Pentagon.

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Iraqi forces are hoping to move closer to Mosul's Old City, where IS jihadists are keeping countless civilians hostage to use as human shields in battle.

"We believe there are 3,000 to 4,000 ISIS fighters in Raqqah, including foreign fighters and various leadership figures", Dorrian said.

There are now more than 6,000 combat troops deployed in Iraq, but that number has been steadily increasing over the last few months.

Jafar al-Husseini, a representative from the Kataib Hezbollah militia - who are closely linked to Iran - said the army and paramilitaries were strong enough to defend Iraq themselves.

"I think that the government of Iraq realises their very complex fight, and they're going to need the assistance of the coalition even beyond Mosul".

In Iraq, the USA troops would support their local counterparts with skills where they still fall short like counter terrorism, intelligence gathering and aviation, a United States defense official explained to BuzzFeed News. Both countries are key security and economic partners for Iraq, yet are often at odds with each other when it comes to regional politics and security in the greater Middle East. Iraqi forces backed by US artillery and air power have retaken the eastern half of the city, and are battling to reclaim the western half in brutal urban combat.

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