Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi says Iraq does not need foreign ground troops to defeat the Islamic State group, after Washington announced it would deploy special forces to fight the jihadists.
Abadi did not directly reject the deployment, but did insist that any operations must be coordinated with the Iraqi government.
“There is no need for foreign ground combat forces in Iraqi territory,” Abadi said in a statement released late on Tuesday in which he praised the performance of Iraqi special forces.
“The Iraqi government stresses that any military operation or presence of any foreign force, special or not, in any place in Iraq cannot be done without its approval and coordination with it,” the statement said.
Colonel Steve Warren, the spokesman for the international anti-IS coalition, said that “the Iraqi government was informed” about the planned deployment.
Defence Secretary Ashton Carter said on Tuesday that the US was deploying a “specialised expeditionary targeting force” to Iraq to work alongside local forces against IS, which overran large parts of Iraq last year.
Though the new troops will be based in Iraq, they will have the ability to conduct raids across the border in northern Syria.
“These special operators will over time be able to conduct raids, free hostages, gather intelligence, and capture (IS) leaders,” Carter said.
US President Barack Obama had repeatedly pledged that there would be no “boots on the ground” to fight against IS, but US special forces have already conducted raids against the jihadists in Syria and Iraq, and more are set to follow the new deployment.
Abadi faces major political pressure to not be seen as too close to Washington, especially from Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias and allied politicians who oppose the United States.