Washington: The US has said Iraqi forces must fight for their own country and it can only provide a training and advisory role in the war-torn nation, after it emerged that ISIS had killed a third American soldier.
“Iraqi forces must fight for their own country. United States forces cannot be a substitute for those Iraqi forces. Some of our special operators, in fact, are offering them important support, but that support comes in the form of offering advice and assistance. And this is the core of our strategy, which is to build up the capacity of local forces to fight for their own country,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said yesterday.
Having learnt important lessons in the last decade, Earnest said the US will not be successful if its US troops act as a substitute for local forces.
Iraqi security forces must be do that for themselves, he said.
“They can count on the support of the United States, they can count on the support of the 65 nations that have signed on to this coalition to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL. This is a fight that the United States is committed to because we under the consequences for our national security,” he told reporters at his daily news conference.
But, ultimately, it is Iraqi forces that are on the frontlines. It’s Iraqi forces that must fight for the security situation in their own country, the presidential spokesman said.
When Barack Obama became the President, there were 144,000 US troops on the ground in Iraq. The number now on the ground in Iraq is 4,000 or 5,000 — a small fraction of the footprint that was ordered by the previous President in the context of the invasion of Iraq, he said.
“Our strategy is predicated on building the capacity of local forces on the ground to fight for their own country,” he said.
Earnest observed that the Iraqi forces have made considerable progress against ISIL.
“All of that progress that Iraqi forces made on the ground against ISIL fighters was only possible because of the important support that they have received from the United States and our coalition partners. That came in the form of training before they even took the battlefield,” he said.
Navy SEAL Charles Keating IV was recently killed in combat against ISIS in northern Iraq.
Keating, 31, is the third American combat casualty since the US redeployed forces to Iraq in the summer of 2014 to advise local forces and conduct special operations against ISIS.