By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 6, 2014 – The Defense Department remains committed to helping the government and people of Iraq to root out terrorists seeking safe haven, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steven Warren told reporters here today.
“We’re working closely with the Iraqis to develop a holistic strategy to isolate al-Qaida-affiliated groups so that tribes, working with security forces, can root them out of populated areas,” he said.
Warren noted some “early successes” along those lines in Ramadi.
“Tribal forces and police, with the Iraqi army providing overwatch, appear to have isolated the [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant] in pockets of the city,” he said. “It’s still early, however.”
In working closely with the Iraqi government, Warren said, the primary assistance has come through the State Department’s foreign military sales program.
“We’re also continuing to accelerate our … foreign military sales deliveries with an additional 100 Hellfire missiles ready for delivery this spring,” he said. “These missiles are one small element of a more holistic strategy.” They’ve proven effective at denying ISIL terrorists the safe-haven zones they’ve sought to establish in western Iraq, he added.
Warren said the Defense Department is committed to promoting stability in Iraq, and that more than $14 billion in equipment, services and training have been delivered to the Iraqi government since 2005.
For example, in the last year, Warren said, the United States delivered six C-130 aircraft, a rapid Avenger surface-to-air missile battery, 27 helicopters, and 12 P301 patrol boats.
“And we’ve expedited delivery of those 100 Hellfire missiles, along with 10 ScanEagle [unmanned aerial vehicles], which will be delivered this spring,” he said.
Warren also reiterated Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s recent message that no U.S. forces are being sent to Iraq.
“I think Secretary Kerry was pretty clear this weekend that we will not be sending forces into Iraq,” he said. “But we, … like I said, are very much committed to the Iraqis.”
The colonel added that the Iraqi army is very capable, and that its capabilities are increasing, largely due to the foreign military sales equipment the United States has sent there.
Warren said service members working in the Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq and Marine Corps security forces at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad number between 100 and 200. U.S. forces are not doing mission planning, he added, noting that the Office of Security Cooperation works at the ministerial level. “It is the line [of communication] that we have from the department into Iraqi security forces and the Iraqi army apparatus,” said he explained.
Despite media reports, Warren said, he has confidence in the Iraqi army.
“Ramadi is already back under Iraqi control, so I’m confident that the Iraqi army is a very capable force,” he said. “[And] I think Secretary Kerry said it best: this is [the] Iraqis’ fight to fight.”