Obama Admits US Lacks Complete Strategy in Iraq

Obama Admits US Lacks Complete Strategy in IraqObama Admits US Lacks Complete Strategy in Iraq

US President Barack Obama admitted that the US has no complete strategy for training forces to fight the IS militant group in Iraq.

"We want to get more Iraqi security forces trained, fresh, well-equipped and focused and Abadi wants the same thing so we're reviewing a range of plans for how we might do that," Obama said. "We don't have, yet, a complete strategy, because it requires commitments on the part of Iraqis as well about how recruitment takes place, how that training takes place."

Obama made the comments after meeting the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Germany on Monday, Al Jazeera reported.

IS has continued to gain ground in both Iraq and Syria, despite months of US-led airstrikes and the US training thousands of Iraqi troops.

IS insurgents captured the key Anbar provincial capital of Ramadi last month, prompting Defense Secretary Ash Carter to lament that Iraqi troops lacked "the will to fight," a remark slammed by Abadi and other senior Iraqi officials.

Controversial Remark

Obama was flayed by domestic critics last September after saying "we don't have a strategy yet" to combat IS militants in Syria after they beheaded a US journalist on camera.

Western strategy in Iraq has come under fire again in recent weeks after IS extremists captured the city of Ramadi despite coalition airstrikes designed to halt their advance and reverse their gains. Witnesses said Iraqi government forces abandoned their arms and fled.

However Obama and Abadi said they were confident that IS advances in Ramadi would be just a short-term tactical gain.

Abadi said Iraq and its allies had won many rounds against IS and the loss in Ramadi was only temporary. He urged the international community to help prevent the militants from profiting from oil smuggling.

Obama deflected questions about sending US ground troops back into Iraq, focusing instead on training Iraqi forces.

An early opponent of Bush's war in Iraq, Obama withdrew US forces in late 2011 and has vowed that he will not send Americans back into combat there. The US, along with coalition partners, is launching airstrikes in both Iraq and Syria, but is banking on local ground forces to supplement that effort.

A six-week US combat training course instructs Iraqi forces in how to shoot, communicate and move about on the battlefield. They are also given individual military equipment.

As of June 4, the US had trained 8,920 Iraqi troops at four sites, and 2,601 more are undergoing training, according to Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren.

Senior defense officials said training is hindered because Iraqi security forces have difficulty getting to training sites. Not only are they consumed with fighting, but there are also risks in the travel itself, from IS militants to roadside bombs and blocked roads.

No Change in Strategy

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Obama's comments did not signal that he was planning a major overhaul of US strategy in Iraq.

"He was speaking about how to accelerate and optimize the training and equipping of Iraqi forces, including integration of Sunni fighters, not overall strategy to fight IS nor the intended purpose of the training mission, which is to enable local ground forces take the fight to IS backed by coalition air power," the official said.

In Washington, the speaker of Iraq’s Parliament, Saleem al-Jabouri, called on the US and its allies to increase the pace of airstrikes against IS, and said Sunni tribes fighting the group in western Anbar Province were not getting sufficient weaponry.

Despite recent pledges by the Obama administration to speed weapons to the Sunnis in Anbar, via the central government in Baghdad, the flow is still insufficient, he said. "The level of armaments does not really correspond to the challenge that the province is facing," Jabouri said.