'Still no complete plan in Isil battle,' admits Obama
Published 09/06/2015 | 02:30
President Barack Obama has admitted that American forces still "don't have a complete strategy" for training up Iraqi troops to stand their ground against Isil fighters.
Six months after the US began re-training Iraqi forces following a series of high-profile battlefield defeats, much of Iraq's military still seems unable to match the intensity of the jihadist fighters.
Iraqi forces have performed so poorly in combat that Ash Carter, the US secretary of defence, said recently they "showed no will to fight" in defence of the key city of Ramadi.
Speaking at the G7 summit in Germany, Mr Obama said the US was "going to have to improve" training for Iraqi forces and left open the possibility of deploying more American military trainers.
He said the US military had not yet completed a plan for how to accelerate the training and equipping of Baghdad's forces.
"When a finalised plan is presented to me by the Pentagon, then I will share it with the American people," he said. "We don't yet have a complete strategy because it requires commitments on the part of the Iraqis as well about how recruitment takes place."
His comments are likely to be seized upon by Republicans who have long complained that the White House has no clear plan for achieving its objective of defeating Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).
Mr Obama took political fire in August 2014 when he appeared before the cameras and said "we don't have a strategy yet" for how to combat the spread of Isil. In the year since his comments, the US and a coalition of allies have launched more than 4,000 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria but have been unable to prevent key cities falling to the jihadists.
Mr Obama insisted that Iraqi forces "operate effectively" where they have been trained and equipped by the US. "Where we haven't, morale, lack of equipment, et cetera, may undermine the effectiveness of Iraqi security forces," he said.
The US has trained around 7,000 Iraqi soldiers in a series of six-week training camps but none of those 7,000 were deployed in the unsuccessful effort to defend Ramadi.
There are around 3,000 American troops currently deployed in Iraq and Mr Obama suggested he was open to increasing that number if it would help build the capacity of Iraq's military. "All the countries in the international coalition are prepared to do more to train Iraqi security forces, if they feel like that additional work is being taken advantage of," Mr Obama said.
He added that there was "more training capacity than we have recruits" and that the US was still trying to convince Sunnis in western Iraq to join the Shia-led military and take advantage of US training.
Meanwhile, it was reported in Aleppo yesterday that a couple and their five children were killed overnight in the Syrian northern province in strikes by the US-led coalition fighting Isil, a monitor said on Monday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the deaths raised to 148 the number of civilians killed in US-led strikes in Syria since they began in September.
The Observatory said the family was killed in a coalition strike on the village of Daly Hassan, in the north-east of Aleppo province.
Their deaths "bring the number of Syrian civilians killed in coalition air strikes since September 23 to 148, including 48 children and 32 women," the monitor said.
In May, the Observatory reported at least 64 civilians - nearly half of them children - had been killed in US-led air strikes in the village of Birmahle in Aleppo province.
Syria's US-backed opposition National Coalition urged an investigation into the overnight incident, noting that the available information "lends credence to report that it was a US-led coalition air strike".
The Pentagon has generally denied that US-led coalition strikes have killed any civilians, despite persistent reports of scattered civilian deaths.