Pentagon: U.S. continues to help Iraq in face of extremist threat
WASHINGTON, July 29, 2014 – While Pentagon officials continue reviewing assessments of the situation in Iraq, operations to aid the Iraqi government against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant continue, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said today.
“This notion that we’ve done nothing is just false,” Kirby said during a Pentagon news conference.
The United States has 715 American troops in Iraq defending U.S. property and citizens and providing security assistance and some advice through the joint operations centers in Erbil and Baghdad, the admiral noted. “And, oh, by the way,” he added, we’re still flying an intensified program of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance flights, manned and unmanned, over the country, information from which is being shared with Iraqi security forces as appropriate.”
And Iraq is the benefactor of one of the highest foreign military sales programs the United States has with any country, Kirby said.
“I take deep issue with this notion that the United States, and the United States military in particular, is not moving fast enough or doing enough,” he said.
That said, Kirby told reporters, this is an issue the Iraqi government must handle. He said the government missed an opportunity in 2011 to build an inclusive, multi-ethnic government in which all Iraqis feel included.
The military mirrors these failings, he said. In 2011, the Iraqi military was ready to handle the threats facing it, but the way the government organized, manned, trained and equipped its army lessened its effectiveness, the press secretary said.
“We’ve seen some of those units fold under pressure because of either lack of will or lack of leadership –not all of them — and we’re seeing them … continue to stiffen themselves around Baghdad,” he noted.
Iraqi security forces are retaking some territory, and maintain control, Kirby said. “But ultimately, this is an Iraqi issue to deal with,” the admiral said. “This is a fight the Iraqi security forces have got to make. It’s their country. It’s a threat to their people. And we’ve made it clear that we’re willing to work towards helping them, but ultimately, this is … their fight.”