By Kristina Wong - 07/27/14 03:57 PM EDT
The Obama administration has quietly moved an additional 62 advisers to Iraq over the past three weeks, according to defense officials.
The additions bring the total number of advisers in the country to 242, still short of the 300 advisers that President Obama authorized for Iraq last month.
Obama shipped over the advisers to be the eyes and ears of the administration as it tries to chart a policy response to the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has taken over towns in Western and Northern Iraq.
The advisers' initial assessment was delivered to Pentagon officials last week, and will form the basis of recommendations to Obama about further U.S. military assistance.
Pentagon officials said on July 15 it was "possible" that more authorized advisers could flow into Iraq before those recommendations are made, and also said there had been an increase in staffing at the joint operations centers.
"The staffing there has increased somewhat, not much, but a little bit," said Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said.
According to information provided by defense officials on Friday, about 20 of the new "advisers" in Iraq are members of a command and control unit established on July 14.
The unit was created to provide a new layer of management for the 200 U.S. forces who were ordered on June 30 to reinforce security for diplomatic facilities, personnel, and the Baghdad International Airport.
Soon after the creation of the unit, the Pentagon added about 40 additional personnel to the security mission -- some to replenish those who stood up a joint operations center in Erbil.
Overall, there are now 707 U.S. forces deployed to Iraq, up from 650 on July 1st.
Lawmakers have sharply questioned the administration about the use of the advisers.
Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) asked officials this week what authority the president planned to use to keep troops in Iraq after the authority under the War Powers Resolution expires in approximately 30 days.
The War Powers Resolution allows the president to commit troops to military action for 60 days without congressional authorization or a declaration of war, and provides additional 30-day withdrawal period.
"Any future decisions regarding our military posture in Iraq will be done in very close consultation with the Congress," said Brett McGurk, deputy assistant secretary of State for Iraq and Iran.
Collins called that answer unsatisfactory.
"Are you gonna come back and ask for a new authorization? Are you just gonna ask — because this, at some point in time, has to be asked. And basically just saying, well, we'll think about it in 30 days, frankly is not satisfactory to me," he said.
"There's a number of legal authorities through which the president is able to deploy military force around the world," McGurk responded.
Collins questioned whether the authorization for the Iraq War was still valid, given the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops in December 2011.
"This is just concerning. I mean, again, I believe we left with no real strategy," he said. "We're now having to deal with it. And for those of us who did deal with it on the ground, are now, you know, very frustrated about it."
"So, yeah, there [are] a lot of legal options here. But we need to decide what are we going to do it under and not make it up on the fly, because we're not sure what to do," he said.
So far, the president has requested $775 million in funding for Iraq, which includes $475 million for the additional security forces and advisers, according to Collins.
Overall, as of Friday, there were 807 U.S. troops in Iraq: 242 advisers, 100 defense personnel as part of the normal U.S. Embassy presence under the Office of Security Coopration - Iraq, and an additional 465 security forces providing security for the embassy and airfields, as well as logistics and conducting drone operations.
— This story was updated at 6:03 p.m.