Iraq renews opposition to deployment of foreign troops as army makes progress against ISIS

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Members of the Iraqi police special forces march as they parade in Iraq's holy city of Najaf before heading to fight ISIS on November 19, 2014.AFP/Haidar Hamdani

Published Wednesday, November 19, 2014

As talk in the US about the possibility of sending ground troops to Iraq increases, Baghdad has reiterated its opposition to the deployment of any ground forces from countries of the international coalition to take part in fighting against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). This as the Iraqi Defense Ministry announced the start of a comprehensive strategy to retrain the Iraqi army. The announcement coincided with Iraqi forces seizing control of the Baiji oil refinery.

Iraqi defense minister, Khaled al-Obeidi, said: “The Iraqi government will not allow ground coalition forces to enter Iraq in order to participate in the war on terrorism.”

Obeidi told reporters during his visit to the province of Dhi Qar yesterday that “ground operations will be conducted by the Iraqi army exclusively,” pointing out that “airstrikes by the international coalition targeted many of the terrorist group’s positions in the north and west of the country, but most of the effective strikes are carried out by the Iraqi air force.”

Obeidi also announced the start of a comprehensive strategy to retrain the Iraqi army, which has about half a million soldiers.

In a speech during a graduation ceremony for 3,000 new military officers from the military college on the Imam Ali base in the city of al-Nasiriya, Obeidi said that this strategic plan was devised to train all military units according to a comprehensive plan within a specified timeframe. He warned against the danger of laxity in military training in the future.

He stressed the importance of training, improving combat performance and the ability to cope with difficult situations, uplifting morale and awakening fervor to confront the enemies of the country.

He pointed out that “the Iraqi armed forces are making progress everyday and achieving a new victory every hour.” He called on “all fighters to do their part in the battle against terrorist groups in the country.”

The defense minister stressed that “Iraq will overcome the difficult circumstances it is going through with the strength and ardor of its soldiers,” pointing out that “whoever is counting on breaking the Iraqi army will run away disparaged, conquered and dishonored.”

In terms of military achievements, the Counter-Terrorism Bureau announced the complete liberation of the Baiji oil refinery, Iraq’s largest, from ISIS in the Salah al-Din province.

Samir Shuwaili, the spokesperson of the bureau – which is affiliated to the office of the prime minister – said in a statement to Anadolu news agency that the liberation of the Baiji refinery was completed Tuesday at dawn when Iraqi forces ended the four-months siege imposed by ISIS.

Shuwaili pointed out that the liberation of the refinery will be a springboard for Iraqi forces to embark on liberating the rest of the province still under the control of ISIS, including Tikrit, the center of the province located south of Baiji.

The security official in Baiji, Colonel Ali al-Quraishi, said that the next step after liberating Baiji is preparing for the liberation of al-Sharqat to reach the outskirts of Mosul.

Quraishi told All Iraq News Agency (AIN) that, “New Russian and US equipment and arms have reached Iraqi security forces stationed in the Baiji refinery to prepare to recapture al-Sharqat in the next few days.”

In addition, Iraqi forces also headed towards al-Fatha in the northeast of Baiji in Salah al-Din.

A security official told the Shafaq News website that “army control of al-Fatha means cutting off ISIS’ roads towards the center of Salah al-Din.”

Baiji’s recapture by the army, preceded by Tikrit, then al-Alam, al-Dawr and Samara, means that ISIS fighters are now confined in the areas they occupy.

Khaled al-Khazraji, a member of the security committee at the Salah al-Din council said that ISIS fighters lost the ability to face the Iraqi army units on all levels in the province.

He said in a press statement that “ISIS is now relying entirely on booby-trapping roads and houses and sending car bombs to impede the progress of Iraqi army units that managed to remove IEDs and opened secure roads in Baiji.”

He added that, “Tikrit will be the next goal for the Iraqi army after it is done cleansing Baiji and ending the siege of the oil refinery.” He pointed out that “ISIS fighters booby-trapped the houses along the main roads in Tikrit and al-Alam area.”

The head of the local council in Amiriat al-Fallujah district, Shaker Mahmoud al-Issawi, said that army and police forces as well as the emergency regiment supported by a force of tribal fighters were able to liberate al-Uwaisat, which connects the district with Jurf al-Nasr in the Babel province.

This area has been a stronghold for ISIS and other terrorist groups for years.

(Al-Akhbar)

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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