General: US could provide close air support, advisers for Mosul offensive

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U.S. forces may provide close air support and allow U.S. troops to accompany Iraqi forces in the battle to retake Mosul, the commander of the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria said Monday.

"It's an option, sure," said Army Lt. Gen. Sean Macfarland, commander of Operation Inherent Resolve. 

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Defense Secretary Ash Carter in December had offered the Iraqi government US. Apache attack helicopters and "accompanying advisers" to help Iraqi forces retake Ramadi, but Prime Minister Haider Abadi at the time refused the help.

"Everything that the secretary said is really still on the table," Macfarland said. 

Allowing U.S. forces to fly close air support missions and accompany Iraqi forces into battle would expose them to a greater risk from enemy fire.

The fight to retake Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, is expected to be more difficult than Ramadi. Mosul has five times the population Ramadi had, and the city has been ISIS's logistical hub in Iraq since the terrorist group seized it in June 2014.

While Iraqi military leaders have said they expected to retake Mosul by the end of 2016 or early 2017, Macfarland demurred on when it might happen. 

"Let me just say, I would like to get this wrapped up as fast as I possibly can. I would like to go home and see my granddaughters," he said.  

Macfarland also said he is developing options for the president to accelerate the fight against ISIS, which reports have said could include hundreds more U.S. trainers. 

The three-star general did not clarify whether it could include U.S. forces on the ground in a combat role. 

"In terms of what the different accelerants are going to be, I really don't want to get into specifics. And the decision as to whether or not, you know, something is on or off the table is — is not my decision," he said. 

"That's really, at the end of the day, that's my commander-in-chief's. So, you know, all of us in — in uniform are, you know, preparing various options and — and the president will decide. And so I'm — I'm just going to leave it right there," he said.