US forces can begin work in Iraq, Pentagon says - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

US forces can begin work in Iraq, Pentagon says

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American troops will be making a determination of the status of the Iraqi military as part of their mission. (Source: CBS) American troops will be making a determination of the status of the Iraqi military as part of their mission. (Source: CBS)

WASHINGTON, DC (CBS) - The Pentagon said on Monday that it now has the necessary legal protections to allow teams of special forces to begin an on-the-ground assessment of the fighting in Iraq - the first step toward determining whether U.S. airstrikes would do any good.

The first two 12-man teams - made up of military personnel already in Baghdad - can start work almost immediately. At least two more teams are expected to fly in this week.

They have three missions: Assess the condition of the Iraqi military; Gauge the threat posed by the insurgents - starting first around Baghdad; and determining how many more advisers are needed, up to a total of 300.

If the advisers can identify insurgent targets worth hitting without causing civilian casualties, airstrikes could be launched from an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf.

But it will be up to the Iraqi army to retake lost ground. And one Pentagon official cautioned that 300 advisers are not by themselves going to turn the tide of battle in Iraq.

Copyright 2014 CBS. All rights reserved.

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