A team of 50 U.S. troops has deployed in Iraq's volatile western Anbar province for the first time in the fight against Islamic State jihadists.
U.S. officials Monday said the team is visiting the al-Asad Air Base to survey the facility for potential use for a larger advise-and-assist operation.
The al-Asad base supplies tribal fighters and Iraqi forces holding on to the Haditha Dam, a critical piece of Iraq's infrastructure.
This U.S. move comes after President Barack Obama announced plans last week to double the number of troops in Iraq, approving an additional 1,500 forces that will include trainers and advisers for Anbar.
A string of battlefield defeats for Iraqi forces has led to warnings that Anbar, which stretches from borders with Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia to the western approach to Baghdad, could fall entirely.