Italian Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti today announced a plan to deploy another 500 Italian ground troops into Iraq by the end of the month, a move that will bring the total Italian military presence in the country to over 900 troops. The new troops will be sent to the area around Mosul Dam.
The large, and by most reports extremely unstable Mosul Dam is to be repaired by Italian contractor Trevi Group, who signed a $296 million deal with the Iraqi government earlier this year. The repairs are expected to take 18 months, but Trevi has warned they’ll need at least two months of safe preparation time before the repairs can even begin in earnest, and with the dam so close to combat areas, it’s unclear how much of that has taken place.
Though some have downplayed the warnings as empty rhetoric, some reports on the status of the Mosul Dam have warned that it could collapse more or less at any moment, with a catastrophic failure potentially killing over a million people downriver.
The dam was briefly captured by ISIS in August 2014, but only held for two weeks. US officials started publicly warning about the dam’s dire condition in January of this year, but Pentagon officials say they had serious concerns about the dam’s condition as far back as 2006, early in the US occupation of Iraq.
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