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Jeb Bush welcomes U.S. plan for new military base in Iraq

BY MICHELLE MARTIN for REUTERS — Likely Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush said on Wednesday that he welcomed a plan to establish a new military base in Iraq’s Anbar province, which a U.S. official has said the United States will announce later in the day.

Washington is also expected to announce plans to deploy around 400 extra U.S. trainers to help Iraqi forces fight Islamic State (IS). The move would mark a shift in strategy for President Barack Obama, who has come under fire for not being tougher in combating IS.

“I believe that the efforts to date haven’t been strategic, that we don’t have a strategy – this may be the beginning of the strategy,” Jeb Bush said in Berlin during a five-day European tour that seeks to establish his foreign policy credentials.

The former Florida governor, who is expected to formally launch his bid for the Republican presidential nomination next week, has previously called Obama’s handling of IS a failure.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, he said it was unclear whether the plans meant putting troops in direct combat or whether they meant training the Iraqi military.

Bush has previously suggested that U.S. troops should be embedded with Iraqi forces to train them and identify targets and he reiterated this view during his trip to Berlin.

“It helps us with our intelligence gathering, it certainly helps with the morale and the ability to train the troops,” he said.

Bush added: “Right now there’s been a prohibition of that, but this is welcome news if this is a commitment from a strategic point of view to take out IS.”

Bush was embroiled in a controversy in May over whether he would have launched the Iraq war in 2003 “given what we know now.” Bush said he would have done so but later disavowed the comment, saying he had misinterpreted the question on the war, which his brother, former President George W. Bush, started.

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