US forces could get closer to battlefield for Mosul offensive

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The nation's top military officer says it's possible U.S. troops may edge closer to the battlefield with Iraqi forces as they prepare to retake Mosul from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). 

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr. told reporters Sunday that he would make recommendations to President Obama after discussions with top U.S. commanders in Iraq and Iraqi officials. 

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"I'm prepared to recommend a level of accompaniment that will allow us to be successful," said Dunford, according to DoD News. "But I want to wait for the Iraqis to tell us...what they believe is right for them."

While U.S. special operations forces have partnered with Iraqi forces on combat missions, the conventional U.S. train-and-advise mission is taking place at the division level — meaning that U.S. forces are advising at a high level away from the battlefield. 

U.S. troops are also advising the Kurdish peshmerga at a brigade level, which is lower down and closer to the battlefield. 

Dunford said discussions with Iraqi officials will determine whether U.S. forces could also advise the Iraqi army at the brigade level. 

A typical Army brigade consists of about 3,000 to 5,000 troops. 

Last week, Army Col. Steve Warren, spokesman for the campaign against ISIS, said retaking Mosul could require eight brigades. 

The U.S. had offered Iraqi forces close air support and on-the-ground advisers for the offensive in Ramadi, but the Iraqi government declined. 

Dunford said the Iraqis will identify what U.S. capabilities and how many U.S. troops they may need to retake Mosul. 

ISIS seized Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, in June 2014. 

Then-Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey later testified that U.S. forces may have to accompany Iraqi forces for complex operations, such as retaking Mosul.