US Training, Aid Key to Iraq Stability

The US government is providing training and arms to Iraq to help its security forces respond to a resurgence of Al Qaeda-affiliated fighters in the country’s western portion, senior Defense and State Department officials told House legislators Tuesday. Elissa Slotkin, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, told members of the House Armed Services Committee that the number of US military personnel staffing the Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq at the US Embassy in Baghdad is now around 108 uniformed personnel, down from some 700. However, the office is responsible for a wide-range of key assistance and cooperation activities. Anne Patterson, assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs and former Egyptian ambassador, told the committee the US has “great concern” about the actions of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (known by its Romanized acronym of ISIS), a powerful Al Qaeda affiliate which has attracted some 7,000 foreign fighters to Syria and parts of Iraq. The US has made an “extraordinary effort” to speed aid to help the Iraqis go after ISIS camps, including delivering Hellfire missiles, expanding equipment sales, and stepping up counter terrorism training, said Patterson.