US aid needed to battle al-Qaida: IRAQI PM

WASHINGTON (TIP): A bloody resurgence of al-Qaida in Iraq is prompting Baghdad to ask the US for more weapons, training and manpower, two years after pushing American troops out of the country.

The request will be discussed during a White House meeting Friday between Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and President Barack Obama in what Baghdad hopes will be a fresh start in a complicated relationship that has been marked both by victories and frustrations for each side. Al-Maliki will discuss Iraq’s plight in a public speech Thursday at the US Institute for Peace in Washington.

“We know we have major challenges of our own capabilities being up to the standard. They currently are not,” said Lukman Faily, the Iraqi ambassador to the US, told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday. “We need to gear up, to deal with that threat more seriously.We need support and we need help.” He added: “We have said to the Americans we’d be more than happy to discuss all the options short of boots on the ground.” “Boots on the ground” means military forces. The US withdrew all but a few hundred of its troops from Iraq in December 2011 after Baghdad refused to renew a security agreement to extend legal immunity for American forces that would have let more stay.

At the time, the withdrawal was hailed as a victory for the Obama administration, which campaigned on ending the Iraq war and had little appetite for pushing Baghdad into a new security agreement. But within months, violence began creeping up in the capital and across the country as Sunni Muslim insurgents lashed out at Shiites, angered by a widespread belief that Sunnis have been sidelined by the Shiite-led government, and with no US troops to keep them in check.

More than 5,000 Iraqis have been killed in attacks since April, and suicide bombers launched 38 strikes in the last month alone. Al-Maliki is expected to ask Obama for new assistance to bolster its military and fight al-Qaida. Faily said that could include everything from speeding up the delivery of US aircraft, missiles, interceptors and other weapons, to improving national intelligence systems. And when asked, he did not rule out the possibility of asking the US to send military special forces or additional CIA advisers to Iraq to help train and assist counterterror troops.

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