More US troops are on the way to Iraq to aid the country’s armed forces in the upcoming offensive against the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced during a surprise visit to the country. The new troops will be deployed to the airbase in Qayara, liberated by Iraqi troops on Saturday. The base is 60 kilometers (37 miles) south of Mosul, which has been held by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) since 2014.

With these new reinforcements, the US will have about 4,650 troops in Iraq, two years after returning to the country to fight ISIS. If US commanders require more troops, Carter said he would “ask the president for them.” Carter praised the seizure of Qayara as a “key strategic victory,” telling reporters that it would be used to complete the envelopment of Mosul from the south. FULL REPORT