Thursday, December 10, 2015 2:30 am
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Wednesday the Pentagon was prepared to assist the Iraqi government with more personnel and attack helicopters to retake the key Iraqi city of Ramadi from the Islamic State (IS).
“The United States is prepared to assist the Iraqi army with additional unique capabilities to help them finish the job (retaking the city of Ramadi), including attack helicopters and accompanying advisers if circumstance dictates and if requested by (Iraqi) Prime Minister Abadi,” said Carter here at a congressional hearing.
The Iraqi forces in May lost Ramadi to IS fighters, triggering an unusual anger from Carter, who at that time accused the Iraqis of lacking “will to fight.”
Carter’s remark on Wednesday was the latest sign of U.S. willingness to intensify its involvement in the fight against the IS, also known as ISIL.
Despite his opposition to send ground troops overseas, U.S. President Barack Obama announced on October his plan to send fewer than 50 U.S. special operations troops to assist rebels in Syria.
The Pentagon early this month expanded the Obama administration’s overseas deployment plan to include Iraq, saying that a new U.S. specialized operations force of about 100 was being deployed to Iraq.
In its defence, the White House had argued that sending special operations forces, whose main mission was to train and support local forces, was different from large-scale, ground combat operations.
Meanwhile, Carter on Wednesday reaffirmed that the Obama administration would not send “significant” ground force to Syria or Iraq.
“I recognize that in principle there are alternatives to the strategic approach we have adopted to drive ISIL from Syrian and Iraqi territory, including the introduction of a significant foreign ground force,” said Carter.
During his third Oval Office address in his seven-year-presidency on Sunday, Obama again dismissed demands from Republicans to change his current counter-IS strategy and send more boots on the ground.
“We should not be drawn once more into a long and costly ground war in Iraq or Syria. That’s what groups like ISIL want,” Obama said.
“They know they can’t defeat us on the battlefield … They also know that if we occupy foreign lands, they can maintain insurgencies for years, killing thousands of our troops and draining our resources, and using our presence to draw new recruits,” he said.
Since the outset of U.S.-led coalition campaign against the IS, now in control of wide swaths of territories both in Syria and Iraq, the Obama administration had been sticking to its original strategy of training local forces to conduct ground assaults against the group, together with launching air raids.
*Reported by Xinhua