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Iraqi PM appeals to US for more air raids, weapons
by Staff Writers
Baghdad (AFP) Dec 09, 2014

US defence chief in Iraq to review anti-IS war
Baghdad (AFP) Dec 09, 2014 - US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel arrived in Baghdad on Tuesday for an unannounced visit to review the war against the Islamic State jihadist group.

Hagel, who is due to step down from office shortly, is to be briefed by US military commanders and hold talks with his Iraqi counterpart as well as Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

Soon after he landed, Hagel spoke to a group of US and Australian troops and thanked them for their efforts.

He told them the United States and its allies can help the Iraqis in their fight against the Islamic State (IS) group but that the outcome of the campaign would ultimately depend on the Baghdad government.

"It's their country, they're going to have to lead," he said.

"The Iraqi leadership will need to build an inclusive government that wins the trust of all the country's religious and ethnic communities, he said.

US and allied warplanes have launched more than 1,200 air strikes against jihadists in Iraq and Syria since August 8.

Washington also has about 1,500 troops in Iraq providing security for the American embassy and advising the Baghdad government's army and Kurdish forces.

Last month President Barack Obama approved the deployment of another 1,500 troops to bolster the training and advising effort across the country.

Hagel is on his first trip to Iraq since taking over as Pentagon chief in February 2013. It is also set to be his last visit to the country before he stands down.

Hagel announced his resignation last month, rejecting accounts that he was forced out and saying it was a mutual agreement with Obama.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi appealed to US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel on Tuesday for more air raids from Western warplanes and more arms to take on the Islamic State group.

"Our forces are very much advancing on the ground. But they need more air power and more ... heavy weaponry. We need that," Abadi told Hagel at the start of their talks in the Iraqi capital.

His request highlighted a disagreement over war strategy between Baghdad and Washington, with the Americans favouring a more limited air campaign until Iraqi forces are ready to hold on to territory and organise major offensives.

Abadi told Hagel as their meeting began that IS "is on the descent at the moment" and that their capabilities had been weakened.

"We are very thankful for the support that's been given to us," Abadi said.

Hagel made an unannounced trip to Baghdad as the United States and its allies ramped up their role in the fight against IS, with plans to expand the training of Iraqi forces.

Washington has forged an alliance of Western and Arab countries that has launched more than a thousand air strikes against IS since August 8, after the extremist group seized swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria and declared an Islamic "caliphate".

The United States plans to double the number of its troops helping government forces to 3,100, and on Monday the American commander of the war effort said allies also would send roughly 1,500 security personnel.

Kerry calls for three-year legal approval of war on IS
Washington (AFP) Dec 09, 2014 - US Secretary of State John Kerry Tuesday called on lawmakers to back a new three-year legal authorization supporting American military action against Islamic State militants.

The US-led coalition has already carried out some 1,100 airstrikes in Syria and Iraq since September targeting IS extremists in a bid to defeat the group which has seized a swathe of territory and imposed harsh Islamic law.

Under the US constitution, Congress has the ultimate power whether to declare war.

And so far the administration of President Barack Obama has used the existing authorization for use of military force against Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and their branches approved in the days after the September 11, 2001 attacks as the legal justification for going after IS.

Kerry insisted that the Obama administration had been empowered to target the Islamic State group under the existing law.

But he told the Senate Foreign Relations committee: "I think we all agree that this discussion must conclude with a bipartisan vote that makes clear that this is not one party's fight against ISIL (IS), but rather that it reflects our unified determination to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL."

"Our coalition partners need to know it. The men and women of our armed forces need to know it. And ISIL's cadres of killers, rapists, and bigots need to understand it."

He asked the committee to help draw up a new authorization which "provides a clear signal of support for our ongoing military operations against ISIL," referring to the group by another acronym.

Kerry also urged that the text should not limit US actions geographically to just Syria and Iraq, and suggested it should be valid for three years with room for a possible extension.

- Contingencies 'impossible to foresee' -

Controversially, the top US diplomat also appealed to senators not to rule out the use of ground troops.

Obama has insisted he will not send US ground troops into combat operations against IS, saying that "will be the responsibility of local forces."

"That does not mean we should preemptively bind the hands of the commander-in-chief -- or our commanders in the field -- in responding to scenarios and contingencies that are impossible to foresee," Kerry said.

While the Obama administration did not plan to carry out any operations with the 60-strong coalition outside of Syria and Iraq, Kerry argued the new legal authority should "not constrain our ability" to act in other places if needed.

"In our view, it would be a mistake to advertise to ISIL that there are safe havens for them outside of Iraq and Syria," he told senators.

Kerry also said that "we understand... the desire of many to avoid a completely open-ended authorization."

Committee chairman Bob Menendez has suggested a three-year limitation and "we support that proposal, subject to provisions for extension," the top US diplomat said. But he suggested that there needed to be more flexibility in the text.

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