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US general: Arab nations need to help in Iraq

Published:Monday | September 22, 2014 | 12:00 AM

ZAGREB (AP):The United States-led military campaign plan to retake Iraqi territory held by the Islamic State group calls for attacking the extremists from several directions simultaneously, and its success depends on getting more Arab help, the top American military officer said yesterday.

"We want them to wake up every day realising that they are being squeezed from multiple directions," Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters, referring to the Islamic State group, which is also known by the acronyms ISIL and ISIS.

"If we can get ISIL looking in about five different directions, that's the desired end state," he added in an interview with reporters travelling with him to Croatia from Lithuania, where he discussed Iraq and other issues with his NATO counterparts.

Dempsey stressed the importance of gaining more Arab participation in the US-led effort, suggesting that without it, the military campaign might not move to its next phase. He called wider Arab participation a prerequisite for President Barack Obama's approval of the military campaign plan. Obama was briefed on the plan last week, but has not OK'd it.

In an opinion column published Sunday in the Tampa Bay Times, Obama wrote: "This is not, and will not be America's fight alone. That's why we continue to build a broad international coalition."


He said Arab countries have offered to help, but he mentioned none by name and did not describe their specific roles.

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, said the administration was pleased with its progress in building a coalition.

"The commitments are coming in every day," she said on NBC's Meet the Press. However, she did not name individual Arab countries that have promised to participate in military action in Iraq, saying it was up to them to describe their own roles.

Obama's signature on the military campaign plan for Iraq and Syria operations would move the effort into a new phase, Dempsey said, enabled by a larger number of coalition aircraft that would allow for a more persistent presence over the battlefields of Iraq and improved prospects for rebuilding key elements of the Iraqi army.

Dempsey said last week that only about half of Iraqi army brigades, which originally were trained by the US, are suitable partners now for the US.

On Sunday, he said one of the major problems with the other half is that they have been infiltrated by extremists.

Dempsey focused his comments on military action in Iraq rather than Syria.

"We want to go from being episodic with our offensive operations, to sustained," he said, adding that no one should expect a dramatic increase in airstrikes, but rather a series of increases calculated to match Iraq's ability to retake territory with its own ground forces. Obama has ruled out U.S. troops fighting another ground war in Iraq.