PARIS (AP) — Iraq’s military needs more intelligence and more action from international allies against Islamic State extremists, the prime minister said Tuesday.
The meeting in Paris of top officials from Iraq, and international allies, including the US and France, but not Russia, Iran or Syria, comes after IS conquered both the Iraqi city of Ramadi and the historic Syrian city of Palmyra.
More than 4,100 airstrikes by the US-led coalition have failed to stem the gains by IS radicals.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the flow of foreign fighters across the border into Iraq hasn’t slowed, and the radical Sunni group now is majority foreign. Less than a year ago, he said, it was 60 percent Iraqi.
“They have brought hundreds of new fighters, foreign fighters, well trained, well-armed,” al-Abadi told a small group of journalists before the meeting. “This is a transnational organization. We need all the support of the world, the intelligence of the world, and we are not getting it.”
No sharp change in strategy is expected to be announced, with both American and other officials insisting alternatives are limited and that Iraqi forces must themselves step up.
Al-Abadi said he is investigating why commanders in Ramadi ordered troops to pull back without fighting IS extremists.
Iraqi forces outnumbered their opposition but fled the city without fighting, leaving behind large numbers of US-supplied vehicles, including several tanks. This repeats a pattern in which defeated Iraq security forces have, over the past year, left behind US-supplied military equipment, prompting the US to destroy them in subsequent airstrikes against Islamic State forces.
“The Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight,” was the blunt assessment from US Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Sunday.
Al-Abadi disagreed, saying Iraqi soldiers seemed unaware of what they were up against, suggesting that a lack of intelligence from the coalition played a role in losing the city.
“Iraqi forces are prepared to fight,” he said. “If you don’t have enough intelligence, if you don’t have enough from airplanes seeing what’s happening in advance, how can you react?”
Al-Abadi’s Shiite-dominated government is under pressure to increase the presence of Iraqi Sunnis. A measure to raise their profile in security forces has stalled in the legislature.
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press.