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US drops food, ammunition to embattled Iraqi troops
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Oct 11, 2014

British soldiers training peshmerga in Iraq
London (AFP) Oct 11, 2014 - British soldiers are in Iraq training the Kurdish peshmerga forces battling Islamic State jihadists, the Ministry of Defence in London said Saturday.

A "small, specialist team" is operating in Arbil, the capital of Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region, training peshmerga how to use the heavy machine guns Britain supplied in September.

The deployment was approved by Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, a ministry spokeswoman said.

"The government has previously made clear its intention to provide training to the peshmerga as part of the continued effort to assist in the fight against ISIL (Islamic State)," the spokeswoman said.

"The defence secretary has approved the deployment of a small, specialist team of non-combat army trainers which is now in the Arbil area providing instruction on operating, employing and maintaining the heavy machine guns that were gifted by the UK last month."

The Sunday Times newspaper reported that the soldiers were from 2nd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment, light role infantry whose headquarters are at the British sovereign base on Cyprus.

Royal Air Force Tornado jets have been taking part in bombing raids on Islamic State targets in Iraq.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has ruled out putting "combat boots on the ground" in the campaign to defeat the extremist group.

British forces were part of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 that overthrew dictator Saddam Hussein. The last British combat troops left in 2009, whith a small number staying on until 2011 to train Iraqi forces.

Germany has given assault rifles and portable anti-tank rocket launchers to Kurdish forces and German troops have also been in the Arbil area training them to use that new weaponry.

US military aircraft have delivered food, water and ammunition to besieged Iraqi troops battling Islamic State militants, the Pentagon said Saturday, as the coalition pursued its air assault in Iraq and Syria.

The move marked the first time that coalition aircraft airdropped supplies to Iraqi government forces. Similar drops were previously part of humanitarian missions for civilians, such as Yazidis and Turkmen.

The airdrops of vital supplies to troops in northern Iraq on Friday and Saturday came at Baghdad's request, US Central Command said in a statement.

"US military forces conducted multiple airdrops in Iraq in the vicinity of Baiji... to resupply Iraqi security forces operating in the area," it added.

In total, 36 bundles containing 7,328 halal meals, 2,065 gallons of water and 16,000 pounds of ammunition were dropped.

While Baiji remains under Baghdad's control, nearby towns "are contested as ISIL continues to conduct operations in the area," the statement said, using another acronym to identify the IS group.

The embattled Iraqi army is facing increasing pressure from IS jihadists in several hotspots.

The airdrops come after US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel described the campaign against IS in Iraq as "difficult," particularly in the western province of Anbar.

"Anbar province is in trouble. We know that," he said on Friday during a visit to Colombia.

"This is a difficult effort. It is going to take time. It won't be easy. So, yes, there is a lot of uncertainty in Anbar right now."

The US-led coalition also launched fresh air strikes in Iraq and Syria on Friday and Saturday, Central Command said.

Bomber and fighter jets conducted six air strikes in Syria, including four in the battleground town of Kobane near the Turkish border.

In Iraq, three air strikes were carried out by attack and fighter jets -- one in Tal Afar in the north and two in Hit in Anbar province -- with the help of Dutch aircraft.

A US-led coalition has been conducting air strikes in Iraq since early August and in Syria since mid-September.

IS fighters have beheaded four Western hostages and seized huge swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria.


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