WASHINGTON : The United States will speed up delivery of missiles and surveillance drones to Iraq as the Baghdad government battles a resurgence of Al-Qaeda linked militants, a Pentagon spokesman said Monday.
"We are ... looking to accelerate the FMS (Foreign Military Sales) deliveries with an additional 100 Hellfire missiles ready for delivery this spring," Colonel Steven Warren said. An additional 10 ScanEagle surveillance drones would also be delivered he said. Hellfire missiles, originally designed as an anti-tank weapon, can be fired from helicopters or airplanes. ScanEagle drones are a low-cost three-meter aircraft capable of flying 24 hours. The deliveries correspond to contracts already signed with Iraq. Some 75 Hellfire missiles were delivered to Baghdad in mid-December, US officials said.
Since then Iraq has seen a resurgence of fighting in the province of Anbar, a key insurgent stronghold following the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Fighters from the Al Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) reclaimed control of the city of Fallujah last week, scene of some of the bloodiest fighting of the Iraq war between US troops and insurgents. Warren said Washington was working closely with Iraqi officials to develop a "holistic strategy to isolate Al Qaeda-affiliated groups so that the tribes working with the security forces can drive them out of the populated areas." However, he reiterated previous statements from US Secretary of State John Kerry that no US forces would return to Iraq to assist in military operations. "We'll not be sending forces to Iraq," he said.
Instead the United States would continue to provide intelligence to assist and advise the Iraqis at a "ministerial level" through around 100 military personnel who continued to be based at the US Embassy in Baghdad, Warren said. The assistance would not extend to operational advice. "We're not doing tactical work with the Iraqis," he said. Despite the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq at the end of 2011, the United States remains a key partner for Iraq on security and defense, providing more than $14 billion worth of weapons to Baghdad since 2005.