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U.S. Forces Open Joint Operations Center In Baghdad

U.S. forces in Baghdad have opened a joint operations center in the city to assess the security situation in the wake of the rapid territorial gains made by Sunni militants, American Forces Press Service quoted US Defense Department officials as saying on Thursday.

An additional four teams of U.S. advisors arrived in the Iraqi capital Wednesday night, bringing the number of teams to six, and raising the strength of American service members there to about 500, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said.

The four teams bring 50 people with them, which puts the number of American assessors on the ground to 90. Warren said an additional 90 personnel have set up the joint operations center in Baghdad, meaning 180 of the possible 300 U.S. service members Obama proposed to Iraq have arrived.

Warren described the deployments as enhanced teams commanded by lieutenant colonels that are fanning out across Baghdad and assessing the Iraqi military. President Barack Obama ordered the teams to Iraq after Syrian-based Sunni militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant overran towns and cities across Iraq's northern and western provinces. They are moving closer to Baghdad, facing little or no resistance from Iraqi security forces.

"Some of the American military personnel in Iraq are conducting an advise and assist mission, some are manning the joint operations center, some of them are part of the [Office of Security Cooperation] and yet others are Marines that are part of a [fleet anti-terrorism security team] platoon," Warren said.

The assessment teams are mostly made up of Army Special Forces personnel. They will advise and assist the Iraqi military at various levels of command.

The teams will take two to three weeks to assess the Iraqi military and make their reports, officials said.

Warren refused to comment on reports that Iran is operating drones over Iraq and supplying the Baghdad government with arms. He called on all regional countries to "participate constructively in the situation" in Iraq.

Warren said the United States will establish another joint operations center in northern Iraq in the coming days or weeks. The commander of the U.S. forces in Iraq is Army Maj. Gen. Dana Pittard.

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