Washington reiterates commitment to help Iraq combat terrorism

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The United States renews its commitment to help Iraq combat al-Qaeda with military sales and intelligence sharing, Agence France-Presse reported a U.S. official as saying on Wednesday.

“We do want to help the Iraqis develop the capability to target these networks effectively and precisely,” a senior administration official said, after a two-hour meeting between U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Despite carrying out a swathe of operations and implementing several tightened security measures, Iraq has failed to curb daily attacks.

Resurgence of violence in Iraq has reached a new level unseen since 2008. The violence has killed more than 5,350 people this year.

The U.S. official, who asked not to be named, said “it is a fact now that al-Qaeda has a presence in western Iraq and it has a presence in terms of camps and facilities and staging areas that the Iraqi forces are unable to target effectively. And that’s just a fact that goes to their capabilities.”

Meanwhile, the While House described talks between Maliki and Biden as “friendly” and “constructive.”

It added: “Vice President Biden reiterated the U.S. commitment to equip Iraqis to fight al-Qaeda, and Prime Minister Maliki made clear that he views the United States as Iraq’s security partner of choice.”

Many militants were slipping into Iraq from Syria, armed with heavy weapons.

According to the U.S. official, Washington has “a pretty good handle now on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant networks and where they are and where it’s coming from.”

“We’re kind of increasing expert cooperation with the Iraqis in terms of developing that information base. But we really want to help the Iraqis have a better vision of what they face so they can target it effectively.”

Before Maliki’s meeting with Biden, several U.S. senators have accused the Iraqi prime minister of promoting “a sectarian and authoritarian agenda.”

In a letter sent Tuesday to President Barack Obama, six senators expressed alarm at the “deteriorating situation in Iraq” and urged Obama to expand counterterrorism assistance while pressing the Shiite prime minister to reconcile with Sunni and Kurdish leaders.

Also, before leaving to Washington, Maliki said that he aimed to discuss security, intelligence sharing and weapons sales during his visit.

Iraq has ordered dozens of F-16 warplanes from the United States with the first due for delivery in late 2014.

(With AFP)

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