U.S. Army ready to train Iraqi forces

Pentagon prepares to deliver another arms shipment to help Iraq fight al-Qaeda

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The United States is planning to use U.S. troops to train Iraqi counter terrorism units in a third country, a defense official said on Friday

Pending an agreement with Jordan or another nation to host the effort, the training was “likely” to go ahead as both Baghdad and Washington supported the idea, said the official, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity.

However, Pentagon officials are not contemplating sending an American team of military instructors into Iraq, partly because it would require negotiating a legal agreement with Baghdad that proved elusive in the past.

Such a move also could spark political rancor in Washington that would revive old wounds over the controversial U.S.-led war in Iraq.

A Pentagon spokesman, meanwhile, said Iraq will be receiving “very shortly” another installment of small arms and ammunition requested by Baghdad as it battles al-Qaeda militants for control of Fallujah and other key cities in Anbar province.

We're in discussions with the Iraqis on how we can improve the Iraqi security forces,” Col. Steven Warren told reporters.

Another official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss details of the latest arms shipment by name, said the material includes tank ammunition and Hellfire air-to-surface missiles. The official said these do not go beyond the types of weaponry the U.S. has already provided to Iraq.

The United States led an invasion of Iraq in 2003, toppling Saddam Hussein. American troops withdrew from the country in 2011 after failing to reach a deal with Baghdad providing legal safeguards for U.S. forces.

Less than 300 U.S. troops are now stationed in Iraq, with a contingent of Marines guarding the American embassy and more than 100 service members overseeing military assistance.

In an interview published Thursday, Maliki said his government was benefiting from intelligence provided by Washington and had asked for weapons and counter-terrorism training.

“We are going to ask for training, in some areas we need training, especially for our counter terrorism units,” Maliki told the Washington Post.

Asked if U.S. trainers would come to Iraq, the prime minister said: “Yes, bringing Americans to Iraq, or Iraqi soldiers could go to Jordan and train.”

He said intelligence collaboration with the United States “is very important for us” and that the Americans were “tapping al-Qaeda communications, finding their camps and places on the ground, observing their routes over the borders.”

He added: “We work together on that field but we need more cooperation.”

The United States already has provided Hellfire missiles after a request from Maliki's government.