Iraqi Forces Building Strength

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s recent meetings with senior US military and Iraqi officials in Baghdad left him “encouraged” about progress both in terms of governance and military operations inside the country, Pentagon spokesman Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters. In addition to reforms in the senior leadership of the Iraqi security services, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi, Defense Minister Khaled al Obeidi, and others told Hagel they would like to acquire more heavy weapons in order to press offensive operations against ISIS forces in the country, said Kirby during the Dec. 12 press briefing. He noted that the Iraqis “do not want to remain in a defensive posture.” Kirby did not specify in which areas of the country the Iraqis plan offensive operations, but said the Iraqis are keen to roll back ISIS in population centers and eventually from the city of Mosul in the north. Hagel had received no specific list of weapons requests, said Kirby, but the United States is accelerating the delivery of key systems. For example, the Iraqis have received scores of Hellfire missiles, with more to come after the New Year, he said. The United States is moving to “fulfill their needs, and you will see that continue,” said Kirby. (Hagel transcript)