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Obama weighs boosting military trainers in Iraq

The United States is close to approving the deployment of more troops and training personnel to Iraq to fight the "Islamic State." The White House has called also for Iraq to do more to fight the militant group.

US President Barack Obama could give his final approval on the plan as early as Wednesday, according to media reports.

While most figures put the number at around 500 soldiers, some reports have put the number at closer to 1,000, depending on training requirements.

The White House has confirmed only that it is considering "a range of options to accelerate the training and equipping of Iraqi security forces," including the deployment of more troops.

The recent losses of several key cities in Iraq have put more pressure of

Obama's ongoing offensive against the terrorist group "Islamic State" (IS).

In May, the western city of Ramadi fell to insurgents, closely followed by Palmyra in Syria, despite continuing US airstrikes.

The operation has been criticized as making insufficient progress against the extremists, who have seized around a third of Iraqi territory over the past year. There have been calls for the US to take a more hard line position against IS and to bolster air and ground military coverage.

The Pentagon has announced that instead of changing strategies, it will boost forces already in position.

"The forces we've trained are performing better than expected, we feel it's in everyone's interest to train more," Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steven Warren said, adding that the Iraqis who have gone through the training were "an improved fighting force."

Currently there are around 3,100 US forces in the Middle Eastern state, encompassing trainers, advisers and security personnel.

President Barack Obama

Obama has called for more Iraqis to join the fight against IS

An 'incomplete strategy'

Speculation surrounds the possible establishment of a new training camp in Anbar Province, which could mean greater support for Sunni tribal fighters. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has been reluctant to properly equip Sunni volunteers due to fears of an uprising against his Shiite cabinet.

Baghdad has so far been in charge of preparing Sunni forces to take part in the offensive. Under the changes US trainers would take over the training.

US General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters during a recent visit to Israel that Obama was considering what effect the adjustments would have on US military activities around the world.

Dempsey said recommendations had been made "on potential enhancements to the training and equip mission," but indicated the changes were unlikely to include sending additional US forces closer to the front line.

On Monday, Obama admitted the US does not have a "complete strategy" for training Iraqi forces, and called on the nation's Shiite-dominated government to permit larger numbers of Sunnis to participate in the campaign to combat IS.

Speaking at

a meeting of G7 leaders in Germany on Monday,

he said additional help was available to Iraq "if they feel that additional work is being taken advantage of."

But at the moment, "one of the things we're still seeing in Iraq is places where we have more training capacity than we have recruits." So far, the US-led coalition has trained almost 9,000 Iraqi troops in basic combat skills, with another 2,600 currently undergoing instruction.

an/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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