“We are deepening our integration with them,” said US Army Colonel Brett G. Sylvia. “We are now pushing that into more of the Iraqi formations pushing forward, some formations that we haven’t partnered with in the past where we are now partnering with them.”
During a rare interview at the US section of a base for the Iraqi army and Kurdish peshmerga forces in Makhmour, 75 km (47 miles) south-east of Mosul, the combat brigade commander would not be drawn on whether his troops were operating inside Mosul proper.
But Sylvia, who commands the 1,700-strong Task Force Strike which he described as the “backbone” of the coalition’s ground forces, told Reuters the level of integration resembles that of small special operations teams embedding with larger indigenous forces to help build capacity.
“We have always had opportunities to work side-by-side, but we have never been embedded to this degree,” he said. “That was always a smaller niche mission. Well, this is our mission now and it is big and we are embedded inside their formations.”
Sylvia called the changes “a natural progression” of the US mission, which is much narrower than the nine-year US occupation that followed the invasion to topple Saddam Hussein when up to 170,000 troops were deployed.
The coalition, which includes European and Arab allies, has also launched thousands of air strikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq and neighbour Syria, and trained tens of thousands of Iraqi forces since 2014. Separately, US commandos have launched raids against senior Islamic State leaders. https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20161223-us-commander-says-forces-embedding-more-to-help-iraqis-retake-mosul/
So far the UNHCR has constructed six camps with the capacity to house more than 9,000 families. A further three camps are under construction for an additional 5,000 families.
Many of the new arrivals fled their homes in such a hurry, they arrived without adequate winter clothing for the increasingly harsh weather conditions.
Aid workers in the camps say they are dealing with children showing severe signs of trauma – such as excessive crying, mutism, bed-wetting and fear of leaving their parents.
The UN says food, water and medical aid are also being delivered to vulnerable families living in newly-recaptured town and villages, which have been experiencing severe shortages of supplies. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-37702442