Iraq’s new Prime Minister said on Wednesday that foreign ground troops are neither necessary nor wanted in his country’s fight against the Islamic State group, flatly rejecting the idea a day after the top U.S. general recommended that American forces may be needed if current efforts to combat the extremists fail.
In his first interview with foreign media since taking office on September 8, 2014 Haider al-Abadi told The Associated Press that U.S. airstrikes have been helpful in the country’s efforts to roll back the Sunni militant group, but stressed that putting foreign boots on the ground “is out of the question.”
“Not only is it not necessary,” he said, “We don’t want them. We won’t allow them. Full stop.”
Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday that American ground troops may be needed to battle Islamic State forces in the Middle East if President Barack Obama’s current strategy fails, as Congress plunged into an election-year debate of Obama’s plan to expand airstrikes and train Syrian rebels.
Mr. al-Abadi also urged the international community to expand its campaign against the extremists to neighbouring Syria.
“The fight will go on unless ISIL is hit in Syria,” he said, using an acronym for the group. “This is the responsibility of the international community on top of them the United States government to do something about ISIL in Syria.”
The Islamic State group was established in Iraq but spread to Syria, where it grew exponentially in the chaos of the country’s civil war. Following its success in Syria, the extremist group’s fighters including many Iraqi nationals rampaged across northern and western Iraq in June, seizing control of a huge swath of territory. The group now rules over land stretching from northern Syria to the outskirts of Baghdad.
“We cannot afford to fight our neighbour, even if we disagree on many things,” Mr. al-Abadi said. “This is our neighbour. We don’t want to enter into problems with them. For us sovereignty of Syria is very important.”
Offensive launched against Islamic State in Anbar Meanwhile, Iraqi forces launched an intense military operation against Islamic State insurgents in three cities in central Iraq on Wednesday, fighting to regain control of lost ground, security sources said.
The offensives in Ramadi, Falluja and Haditha in the western province of Anbar started before dawn, security sources in the three cities said.
Sunni tribes revolted in these areas in late 2013 when Iraq’s former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki moved his forces into the cities to suppress a year-long anti-government protest movement.
Islamic State insurgents then entered the cities and became the dominate force over the course of several months’ fighting against the Shia-led government.
Mr. al-Abadi promised last week to end Iraqi strikes on cities to reduce civilian casualties. Wednesday's attacks were on outlying suburbs of the three cities.