Iraq says foreign military trainers welcome but ‘a little late’

Obama authorizing 1,500 additional troops is a ‘little late,’ says Iraq’s Abadi

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Foreign military trainers heading to Iraq are welcome but “a little late,” after U.S. President Barack Obama unveiled plans to send 1,500 additional troops, the country’s prime minister said.

“This step is a little late, but we welcome it,” a statement from Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi’s office said.

The Baghdad government had requested members of the U.S.-led international coalition battling Islamic State group of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) jihadists to help train and arm its forces, the statement said.

“The coalition agreed on that and four to five Iraqi training camps were selected, and building on that, they have now begun sending the trainers,” it said.

The additional force Obama authorized will include a group of advisors to help Iraqi forces plan operations and a group of trainers who will be deployed across the country, officials said, as Washington steps up the pressure on the ISIS militants.

Obama is also asking Congress for more than $5 billion to help fund the fight.

The White House said the troops won’t serve in a combat role.

Some of the advisors will be deployed to western Anbar province, where the Iraqi army has been forced to retreat from advancing ISIS jihadists, a defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity told AFP.

Some of the additional troops will begin to arrive in Iraq in the next several weeks, the official said.

“As a part of our strategy for strengthening partners on the ground, President Obama today authorized the deployment of up to 1,500 additional U.S. military personnel in a non-combat role to train, advise, and assist Iraqi security forces, including Kurdish forces,” a statement said.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel recommended the move to Obama based on a request from the Iraqi government and the assessment of U.S. Central Command, which is overseeing the air war against the ISIS militants, the Pentagon said.

The deployment coincides “with the development of a coalition campaign plan to defend key areas and go on the offensive against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,” it said, referring to ISIS fighters who have grabbed large areas of Iraq and neighboring Syria.

The training will focus on 12 Iraqi brigades -- nine Iraqi army and three Peshmerga brigades, the Pentagon said.

The training sites will be located in northern, western, and southern Iraq and “coalition partners will join U.S. personnel at these locations to help build Iraqi capacity and capability,” it added.
ISIS spearheaded a major military militant offensive that has overrun much of the country’s Sunni Arab heartland since June, and Iraqi federal and Kurdish forces backed by tribesmen and militiamen are fighting to regain ground.

Multiple Iraqi divisions collapsed in the northern province of Nineveh in the early days of the jihadist offensive, leaving major units that need to be reconstituted.

Experts say Iraqi security forces suffer from serious shortcomings in training and logistics, hampering their performance in the conflict.

[With AFP]

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