Iraq calls for more help from allies in fight against IS group
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Iraq’s military needs more intelligence and more help from international allies to defeat the Islamic State militants that have seized large parts of the country, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Tuesday at coalition talks in Paris.
The meeting in Paris of top officials from Iraq and international allies – including the US and France, but not Russia, Iran or Syria – comes weeks after the IS group conquered both the Iraqi city of Ramadi and the historic Syrian city of Palmyra.
More than 4,100 airstrikes by the US-led coalition have failed to stem the territorial gains by IS fighters.
Abadi said that the flow of foreign fighters across the border into Iraq hasn’t slowed, and the radical Sunni group now is now made up of a majority of foreign jihadists.
Less than a year ago, he said, it was 60 percent Iraqi.
“They have brought hundreds of new fighters, foreign fighters, well trained, well-armed,” Abadi told a small group of journalists before the meeting. “This is a transnational organisation. We need all the support of the world, the intelligence of the world, and we are not getting it.”
No major change in strategy is expected to be announced, with both US and other officials insisting the alternatives are limited and that Iraqi forces must themselves step up.
Abadi said he is investigating why commanders in Ramadi ordered troops to pull back without fighting the IS extremists.
Iraqi forces outnumbered the jihadists but they fled the city without fighting.
Their withdrawal left behind large numbers of US-supplied vehicles, including several tanks. Over the past year, Iraqi security forces in retreat have left behind significant amounts of US-supplied military equipment. The US has tried to destroy the weaponry in subsequent airstrikes against Islamic State forces.
“The Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight,” was the blunt assessment from US Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Sunday.
Abadi disagreed, saying Iraqi soldiers seemed unaware of what they were up against – suggesting that a lack of intelligence from the coalition played a role in losing the city.
“Iraqi forces are prepared to fight,” he said. “If you don’t have enough intelligence, if you don’t have enough from airplanes seeing what’s happening in advance, how can you react?”
Abadi’s Shiite-dominated government is under pressure to increase the presence of minority Sunnis in leadership positions. So far a measure to raise the Sunni profile in the security forces has stalled in the legislature.
(FRANCE 24 with AP)