Iraqi govt feels US, allies not doing enough to fight ISIS

Reuters / Saad Shalash
​Iraq believes the United States and its allies are not doing enough to help the country beat back Islamic State militants that have taken control of large chunks of territory.

In fact, at least one Iraqi official told retired US Marine General John Allen that the country feels like “it is fighting largely on its own,”Reutersreported. Allen was in Baghdad this week to speak with the government headed by Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi.

Iraqi Parliament Speaker Selim al-Jabouri told Reuters that when he spoke with Allen, he told him that the United States and other countries in the coalition against the Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS/ISIL) need to step up their efforts against the extremist group.

"Until now our feeling is that the international support is not convincing," Jabouri said on Wednesday. "We might see participation here or there, but it is not enough for the tough situation we are passing through."

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In a statement, the office of Prime Minister Abadi agreed that the US and its coalition partners need to “increase the tempo” of the airstrikes targeting IS fighters and strongholds.

Last year, IS secured large areas in western and northern Iraq, raising concerns that it would take over Kurdish territories and even advance on Baghdad. The group was able to find sympathizers within the country’s Sunni population, which felt cast out of and uninvolved in the largely Shiite-dominated central government.

While the US had withdrawn combat troops from Iraq at the time, it re-entered the fray by authorizing airstrikes against the militants and sending military advisors to the country. To date, airstrikes have halted the advance of IS, but the group still controls much of that territory.

The US has promised to “degrade and ultimately destroy” IS. Allen himself said on Wednesday that “our global coalition to counter [the Islamic State] grows stronger as does our collective commitment to the people of Iraq and the country of Iraq.”

In Syria, where IS also has a foothold, airstrikes have proven to be less effective, according to a new Wall Street Journal report. The newspaper stated that new government estimates indicate that IS has actually expanded its reach in Syria since the US and its coalition partners began conducting airstrikes against it some three months ago.

One government official objected to the Journal’s characterization of Syria as a “haven” for IS, but acknowledged that the group was harder to fight off there.

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“Certainly ISIS has been able to expand in Syria, but that’s not our main objective,” said the senior defense official, referring to the government’s main goal of stabilizing Iraq. “I wouldn’t call Syria a safe haven for ISIL, but it is a place where it’s easier for them to organize, plan and seek shelter than it is in Iraq.”

Although the US has maintained it does not want to get sucked back into Iraq or the Syrian civil war, it is mulling over new tactics in its strategy. Potential options include shifting its focus to Syria and concentrating on training anti-IS groups, coordinating airstrikes with rebel groups inside of Syria, offering better weapons to Kurdish forces fighting IS, and creating a “buffer zone” between Syria and Turkey.