Washington: The US has said it is looking to accelerate foreign military sales deliveries, including of missiles and drones, to Iraq in its bid to work closely with the country to defeat al-Qaeda.
“The US maintains a strong relationship and commitment with and to the government of Iraq. We remain in close contact both from Washington and our embassy in Baghdad with Iraq’s political leaders about how we can continue to support the government’s efforts to defeat al Qaeda what’s known now as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which is the al-Qaeda umbrella group there,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters.
“We have made a significant commitment to helping the Iraqi government in dealing with that situation…this is something for the Iraqis to take the lead on and handle themselves, but that doesn’t mean that we cannot assist them, and we have,” he said in response to a question.
“We’re working closely with the Iraqis to develop a holistic strategy to isolate the al-Qaeda-affiliated groups, and we have seen some early successes in Ramadi, as you know,where tribal forces and police, with the Iraqi army providing support, appear to have isolated ISIL in pockets of the city,” he said.
Noting that the situation in Iraq remains fluid and it is too early to tell or make conclusions about it, Carney said the US is accelerating its foreign military sales (FMS) deliveries and are looking to provide an additional shipment of Hellfire missiles as early as this spring.
“These missiles are one small element of that holistic strategy, but they have been proven effective at denying ISIL the safe haven zones that it has sought to establish in western Iraq,” he said.
In addition to Hellfire missiles, the US will also be providing 10 ScanEagle surveillance UAVs in the upcoming weeks and 48 Raven surveillance UAVs later this year.
“These UAVs will help the Iraqis track terrorist elements operating within the country,” he said.
“We also provided Aerostat surveillance balloons to the government of Iraq in September of last year, and delivered three additional Bell IA-407 helicopters in December, just last month, bringing the total purchase buy and delivered to Iraq to 30,” Carney said.
Later in the day, Biden called Nouri al-Maliki and with Iraqi Council of Representatives Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi to discuss with them the recent developments in the country, the White House said.
“The Vice President expressed concern for those Iraqis who are suffering at the hands of terrorists and praised the recent security cooperation between Iraqi Security Forces and local and tribal forces in Anbar province,” the White House said.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon said it is working with the Iraqi leadership to develop its capabilities.
“We’re working closely with the Iraqis to develop a holistic strategy to isolate al-Qaeda-affiliated groups so that tribes, working with security forces, can root them out of populated areas,” the Pentagon spokesman, Army Colonel Steven Warren told reporters.