Iraq ‘briefed’ on plan to deploy U.S. special forces
The Iraqi government was fully briefed on U.S. plans to deploy American special forces to Iraq and the two governments will consult closely on where they will go and what they will do, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday.
Kerry added that the Iraqi government was fully briefed on the U.S. plans to send an elite unit to help combat the Islamic State of Iraq as Syria (ISIS) as announced early this week.
“The government of Iraq was of course briefed in advance of Secretary Carter’s announcement,” Kerry told reporters at NATO, referring to Washington’s defense chief.
But a day earlier, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said although his government welcomed foreign assistance, Iraq did not need foreign ground troops.
“The Iraqi government stresses that any military operation or the deployment of any foreign forces – special or not – in any place in Iraq cannot happen without its approval and coordination and full respect of Iraqi sovereignty,” Abadi said in a statement.
Meanwhile, powerful Iraqi Shiite Muslim armed groups on Tuesday rejected and pledged to fight any deployment of U.S. forces to the country.
“We will continue to work very, very closely with our Iraqi partners on exactly who would be deployed, where they would be deployed, what kinds of missions people would undertake, how they would support Iraqi efforts to degrade and destroy ISIL.”
According to U.S. officials, the new unit will be larger than the roughly 50 U.S. special operations troops being sent to Syria to fight the Sunni militants there.
An anonymous official told the Associated Press that the force could total up to a couple of hundred troops, including assault teams, aviation units and other support units. It would likely be based in Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s self-ruled northern Kurdish region.
There currently are about 3,300 U.S. troops in Iraq, and President Barack Obama had previously announced he was sending fewer than 50 special operations forces to Syria.