Iraq says not about to let cowboys run around in their country
Originally appeared at NBC
The Iraqi government said Wednesday it didn’t ask for — and doesn’t need — the “direct action on the ground” promised by the Pentagon.
The revelation came a day after Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said the U.S. may carry out more unilateral ground raids — like last week’s rescue operation to free hostages — in Iraq to target ISIS militants.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s spokesman told NBC News that any military involvement in the country must be cleared through the Iraqi government just as U.S.-led airstrikes are.
“This is an Iraqi affair and the government did not ask the U.S. Department of Defense to be involved in direct operations,” spokesman Sa’ad al-Hadithi told NBC News. “We have enough soldiers on the ground.”
He acknowledged the importance of U.S. assistance in Iraq, saying that his country needs American help “arming and training out forces.”
The U.S. currently has around 3,300 troops in Iraq to train and advise Iraqi forces and protect U.S. facilities.
The Pentagon has said that the recent raid was in response to a request from the Kurdish regional government — a semi-autonomous body that governs in northern Iraq — which had learned the hostages faced imminent execution.
White House deputy press secretary Eric Schultz said Tuesday the administration has “no intention of long-term ground combat,” adding that U.S. forces will continue to robustly train, advise and assist.
Hadithi’s response to the prospect of U.S. direct involvement comes amid mounting pressure from Iraq’s ruling coalition on the prime minister to request Russian airstrikes against ISIS.
Moscow’s move to mount strikes against ISIS in Syria has put the U.S. and Russia at odds.