U.S. reiterates Iraqi PM’s support for special forces

The U.S. chief diplomat made the comments a day after Iraq's premier said that his country did not need foreign ground troops

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The Iraqi government was fully briefed on U.S. plans to deploy American special forces to Iraq, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday, a day after Iraq's premier said that his country did not need foreign ground troops.

Kerry added that the Iraqi government was fully briefed on the U.S. plans to send an elite unit to help combat the Islamic State of Iraq as Syria (ISIS) as announced early this week.

But a day earlier, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said although his government welcomed foreign assistance, Iraq did not need foreign ground troops.

“The Iraqi government stresses that any military operation or the deployment of any foreign forces - special or not - in any place in Iraq cannot happen without its approval and coordination and full respect of Iraqi sovereignty,” Abadi said in a statement.

In an attempt to calm the confusion on whether the U.S. special forces unit would be welcome or not, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters later on Wednesday - some time after Kerry's remarks - that Abadi supports the U.S. effort to send “about 200” special operations forces to Iraq,

Asked about Abadi’s comments, Earnest said the remarks were directed at ground combat troops, not special operations forces.

Meanwhile, powerful Iraqi Shiite Muslim armed groups on Tuesday rejected and pledged to fight any deployment of U.S. forces to the country.

“We will continue to work very, very closely with our Iraqi partners on exactly who would be deployed, where they would be deployed, what kinds of missions people would undertake, how they would support Iraqi efforts to degrade and destroy ISIL.”

According to U.S. officials, the new unit will be larger than the roughly 50 U.S. special operations troops being sent to Syria to fight the Sunni militants there.

There currently are about 3,300 U.S. troops in Iraq, and Obama had previously announced he was sending fewer than 50 special operations forces to Syria.

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