World Bulletin/News Desk
Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi pressed outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Tuesday for more air strikes and weaponry to accelerate what he called the "descent" of ISIL.
The plea underscored tension in the U.S.-Iraqi relationship, with Baghdad pushing for more aggressive assistance than Washington has provided so far, four months after President Barack Obama launched air strikes against IS in Iraq.
"We are very thankful for the support that's been given to us," Abadi told Hagel as the two met at the prime minister's offices in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone. ISIL was "on the descent at the moment", he said.
"Our forces are very much advancing on the ground. But they need more air power and more ... heavy weaponry. We need that."
Hagel, addressing U.S. and Australian troops shortly after arriving in Iraq, said: "We have a role to play here but always our role has to be a support role... It is their country. They have to lead."
Obama ordered U.S. troops out of Iraq in 2011 but started returning them this summer to help counter the advance of ISIL. Last month he authorised roughly doubling the number of ground forces to 3,100 as the military expands the reach of its advisers and starts training Iraqi and Kurdish forces.
Hagel suggested that, in the U.S. view, success on the battlefield was only part of the answer. The key to progress was an inclusive government in Baghdad that could rally all Iraqis.
Since taking office in September, Shi'ite prime minister Abadi has worked to build alliances with Sunni tribes, and reached a deal on oil exports with the semi-autonomous Kurdish region after months of dispute.
The U.S. commander for Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq and Syria, Lieutenant General James Terry, said Washington's coalition allies would also send about 1,500 troops to help train and advise local forces.
Terry said while the ISIL still conducted limited attacks the group appeared broadly "on the defense, trying to hold what they have gained".
"When you look at some places out in Anbar, it's a little bit stalemated out there. And we've got some work to do. And I think it's do-able."
US Central Command Chief visits Iraqi Kurdish PM
Meanwhile, U.S. Central Command Chief General Lloyd Austin and his delegation of military officials visited the president of Iraqi Kurdish administration, Massoud Barzani, on Tuesday.
The meeting took place in the prime ministry building in Erbil however the media were not allowed inside.
The meeting reviewed the war against ISIL and U.S-led international airstrikes. The officials also discussed military coordination between Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces and U.S. military officials.
This year witnessed many armed clashes between the Iraqi Armed Forces and ISIL in Sunni majority Al-Anbar province.
The rate of battles increased since ISIL took over areas west of Al-Anbar as well as some eastern areas. The group now also control some parts of Ramadi city.Last Mod: 09 Aralık 2014, 15:29