ISIS militants attack Iraq air base, US advisers arrive
Militants attacked one of Iraq’s largest air bases and seized control of several small oilfields on Wednesday as US military experts arrived to set up an operations centre to help Iraqi security forces counter a mounting Sunni insurgency.world Updated: Jun 25, 2014 23:26 IST
The Pentagon announced that 40 Special Operations personnel were redeployed locally from the US embassy, while 90 more were flown in from the Central Command region.
Another group of 50 personnel will join them shortly.
“These teams will assess the cohesiveness and readiness of Iraqi security forces, higher headquarters in Baghdad, and examine the most effective and efficient way to introduce follow-on advisers,” said Pentagon press secretary Rear admiral John Kirby.
The 90 personnel flown in from outside Iraq include a mix of special operation personnel, intelligence analysts, technicians and they will help “stand up a joint operations center”.
And, starting last week, the United States will be flying 30 to 35 “routine and regular ISR missions” (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) every day.
A defiant Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki rejected calls Wednesday for an interim “national salvation government” intended to undermine the Sunni insurgency by presenting a unified front among Iraq’s three main groups, calling it a “coup against the constitution.”
Al-Maliki’s televised address to the nation was his first public statement since President Barack Obama challenged him last week to create a more inclusive government or risk his country descending into sectarian civil war.
US officials believe the leadership in Baghdad should seek to draw Sunni support away from the militants led by an al Qaeda breakaway group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), which has seized a chunk of northwestern Iraq and seeks to carve out a purist Islamic enclave across both sides of the country’s border with Syria.
Meanwhile, the local unit of Al Qaeda’s Syrian branch in the tinderbox town of Albu Kamal on the Iraqi border pledged loyalty Wednesday to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, giving ISIS control over both sides of the frontier. The move is also significant because it reflects how ISIS is fast gaining the upper hand in eastern Syria, where it has been locked in combat with fighters from Al Qaeda franchise Al Nusra Front and allied local rebels virtually all year.