Pentagon: War fund not used for Iraq advisers

The Obama administration's planned operations in Iraq will not be paid for from the Pentagon's wartime funding account, according to a defense spokesman on Monday.

Instead, money currently allotted for the military's command in the Middle East, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), will cover moves to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

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"Based on plans to date, the resources needed to respond to the current situation in Iraq are available within the CENTCOM Area of Responsibility," Pentagon spokesman Navy Cmdr. Bill Urban said.

The administration has used Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as supporting operations and counterterrorism operations in other countries, but is determined to shrink OCO down from its current amount of $79.4 billion with the Afghanistan war ending.

"Although it is premature to discuss a final total for the fiscal year 2015 request, the amount will be lower, reflecting the troop drawdown in Afghanistan and continuing the downward OCO trajectory during this Administration," an administration official said on background.

However, an ongoing and costly Iraq effort could affect those efforts.

This month, President Obama has accelerated manned and drone surveillance flights over Iraq, authorized 275 U.S. troops to secure diplomatic facilities, and has ordered up to 300 special operators to form teams to advise and train Iraqi forces.

The first two teams of about a dozen each will come from special operators already inside Iraq working at the embassy, Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said Friday.

"The rest of the advisers and teams that will come later, most of them will be re-missioned from an inside the Central Command area of responsibility," he added.

Pentagon officials say the deployment of 300 special operators is temporary and of limited duration, but have not given an estimate or timeline.

Kirby said Friday he did not know the cost estimate for operations in Iraq.

Urban said any extra costs associated with these efforts would be paid for with "available funding," but also added, "If the current situation changes, we will re-evaluate resource needs."

OCO will still fund post-combat operations in Afghanistan, however, which are slated to last at least until 2017. The administration is still formulating its 2015 request for OCO, which was due in March, but was delayed until after a decision on how many U.S. troops would remain in Afghanistan after the U.S. combat mission there ended in December 2014.

Officials say the amount is still being finalized, and will be coming soon, despite the troop levels for Afghanistan's post-combat mission being out for weeks.

"The Administration's OCO request is still being developed. I have no update on timing," the administration official said Friday.