Iraqi PM appeals to US for more air raids, weapons

Iraqi PM appeals to US for more air raids, weapons

BAGHDAD - Agence France Presse
Iraqi PM appeals to US for more air raids, weapons

Hagel is the first U.S. secretary of defense to visit Iraq since President Barack Obama ordered American troops out of the country in 2011. AP Photo

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi appealed to U.S. Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel on Dec. 9 for more air raids from Western warplanes and more arms to take on the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

"Our forces are very much advancing on the ground. But they need more air power and more ... heavy weaponry. We need that," Abadi told Hagel at the start of their talks in the Iraqi capital.

His request highlighted a disagreement over war strategy between Baghdad and Washington, with the Americans favouring a more limited air campaign until Iraqi forces are ready to hold on to territory and organise major offensives.

Abadi told Hagel as their meeting began that ISIL "is on the descent at the moment" and that their capabilities had been weakened.

"We are very thankful for the support that's been given to us," Abadi said.

Hagel made an unannounced trip to Baghdad as the United States and its allies ramped up their role in the fight against ISIL, with plans to expand the training of Iraqi forces.

Washington has forged an alliance of Western and Arab countries that has launched more than a thousand air strikes against ISIL since August 8, after the extremist group seized swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria and declared an Islamic "caliphate."

The United States plans to double the number of its troops helping government forces to 3,100, and on Dec. 8 the American commander of the war effort said allies also would send roughly 1,500 security personnel.