U.S. taking ‘hard look’ at Iraq strategy

A top U.S. official says Washington is going to help Iraqis retake Ramadi from ISIS ‘as soon as possible’

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The United States is taking an “extremely hard look” at its strategy in Iraq after Islamic militants captured the town of Ramadi, a top U.S. official said Wednesday.

And he revealed that the U.S. was sending 1,000 anti-tank missile systems to Iraq to help the Iraqi security forces defeat “devastating” suicide car bombs which helped the militants seize the town over the weekend after an 18-month battle.

“You’d have to be delusional not to take something like this and say ‘what went wrong, how do you fix it and how do we correct course to go from here?’,” the official said.

“And that’s exactly what we’re doing. Taking an extremely hard look at it.”

He vowed that the U.S. was determined to help the Iraqi security forces, dealt a punishing blow during the battle for Ramadi, to consolidate and understand what went wrong.

“In terms of taking back Ramadi, we’re going to help the Iraqis do it as soon as possible,” the senior State Department official said, declining to give a specific timeframe.

Meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama gathered national security advisors Tuesday to weigh accelerated training and weapons supplies for Iraqi tribes, hoping for a rapid counteroffensive to retake Ramadi from ISIS.

"We are looking at how best to support local ground forces in Anbar" province, National Security Council spokesman Alistair Baskey told AFP, "including accelerating the training and equipping of local tribes and supporting an Iraqi-led operation to retake Ramadi."

Obama "reaffirmed strong U.S. support" for Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and the U.S. commitment to the government of Iraq, the White House said.

Iraqi security forces on Tuesday deployed tanks and artillery around Ramadi to confront the ISIS fighters who have captured the city in a major defeat for the Baghdad government and its Western backers.

After Ramadi fell on Sunday, Shi'ite militiamen allied to the Iraqi army had advanced to a nearby base in preparation for a counterattack on the city, which lies in the Sunni Muslim province of Anbar, just 110 km northwest of Baghdad.

As pressure mounted for action to retake the city, a local government official urged Ramadi residents to join the police and the army for what the Shi'ite militiamen said would be the "Battle of Anbar".

The White House said a U.S.-led air campaign would back multi-sectarian Iraqi forces in their attempt to regain Ramadi, whose fall exposed the limits of U.S. airpower in its battle against the radical Sunni ISIS in both Iraq and Syria.

"The United States will be very supportive of multi-sectarian efforts who are taking command-and-control orders from the Iraqi central government," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in Washington.

The United States is anxious that the Shi'ite militia are controlled by the Iraqi authorities rather than Iranian advisors. It is likewise worried that the fighting in Iraq will become a polarizing clash between Shi'ites and Sunnis.

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