US troops dispatched to Iraq as military advisers by the former Obama administration have increasingly engaged in battle with the Islamic State group since Donald Trump’s inauguration, officials have confirmed.
The American troops – some 450 military advisers - are not officially expected to be doing the actual fighting, as stipulated in orders given by then chief Barack Obama, but a spokesman for the US-led coalition fighting IS said the soldiers have gotten so close to the front of the battle in Mosul in recent weeks that they've come under attack.
"They have come under fire at different times, they have returned fire at different times, in and around Mosul," Colonel John Dorrian, a spokesman for the US-led coalition told reporters in a video briefing from Baghdad.
When Barack Obama authorised troops back into Iraq in 2014, he stressed they would be in an advisory role and Dorrian said all efforts were being made to keep US forces out of combat.
On Monday, the coalition's commander Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend also reiterated the comments, suggesting US troops are fighting closer to the front, using authorities first granted at the end of the Obama administration.
But the fact these powers are being used more now may suggest commanders feel they have more leeway under President Donald Trump.
"It is true that we are operating closer and deeper into the Iraqi formations," Townsend said.
"We adjusted our posture during the east Mosul fight and embedded advisors a bit further down into the formation."
Dorrian declined to say if any US troops had been wounded in the attacks, but an unnamed official later told CNN that several personnel had been evacuated off the battlefield.
Some 31 US troops have been wounded fighting IS in Iraq and Syria since operations began in late summer 2014, according to figures from the US Defence Department.
Trump gave commanders 30 days to review the IS fight and present recommendations to quicken the campaign shortly after entering the White House.
General Joseph Votel, who heads the US military's Central Command in charge of wars in the region said more US troops might be needed in Syria, though he stressed local forces would be the primary force.
"I am very concerned about maintaining momentum," Votel said, in comments reported by the New York Times and other outlets.
"It could be that we take on a larger burden ourselves."
The US is leading a global coalition battling the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.