Iraq PM: No US combat troops to stay in Iraq after IS

1.5 million Christians left Iraq since 2003 Lawmaker

The US official who spoke with the news outlet said troop deployments would be "similar" to what is now there, but perhaps "a little more".

The U.S. -backed Iraqi offensive to take back Mosul from Daesh (ISIS) gained fresh momentum on Thursday, with an armored division trying to advance into the city from the northern side.

The U.S. official emphasized that there were no discussions of creating independent American bases in Iraq, as such a move would require thousands more personnel. He said the troop levels would be "several thousand ... similar to what we have now, maybe a little more". The bill would fund the government until the end of September 2017.

Currently, the Pentagon has close to 7,000 USA troops in Iraq, many not publicly acknowledged because they are on temporary duty or under specific personnel rules.

Iraqi security forces on Thursday announced that they have opened a new front in the operation against the Islamic State (IS) militants to seize the war-torn Mosul city, the media reported.

"We believe there are 3,000 to 4,000 ISIS fighters in Raqqah, including foreign fighters and various leadership figures", Dorrian said.

Mattis made it clear that United States involvement will not end when Mosul is finally captured from IS. "When the army came we raised the white flag", he said.

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"I know that the Iraqi security forces are confident of their ability to finish the enemy in place in Mosul very soon", he said.

The spokesman for Iraq's Ministry of Defense, Yahya Rasool, meanwhile commented that the country's forces were happily facing "victory or martyrdom", in the battle against IS.

Leaving some kind of residual U.S. force in Iraq would be in tune with President Trump's assertion during the presidential campaign that it was mistake for the USA to not leave a residual after it 2011 withdrawal.

The US intervention against the Islamic State group, launched in 2014, was originally cast as an operation that would largely be fought from the skies with a minimal footprint on Iraqi soil.

When Task Force Strike arrived in Iraq in April 2016, the Air Force was delivering all the precision strike capability to the Iraqis fighting ISIS, Sylvia said.

Observers warn that jihadists could increasingly resort to using guerrilla tactics and bomb civilian targets, as anti-IS forces are also pressing a major offensive on their last major bastion of the terrorist group in Syria, the city of Raqqa.

Some were killed accidentally covering military operations against the Islamic State group, some were murdered by the jihadists and others were assassinated in yet to be elucidated circumstances.

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