Iraqi Defense minister meets U.S. Army general

Iraqi Defense minister meets U.S. Army general
5 years ago

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BAGHDAD -- Iraqi Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi on Sunday met U.S. Army General Lloyd Austin, the head of U.S. Central Command to discuss developments in the western Sunni heartland of Anbar and U.S. support to Iraqi forces, Iraq's Defense Ministry said.

Meeting at the ministry's headquarters inside Baghdad's fortified Green Zone, Obeidi also pressed for an increase in U.S. air strikes.

Islamic State (IS) militants drove security forces from a key military base in western Iraq on Sunday and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi authorized the deployment of Shia paramilitaries to wrest back control of the mainly Sunni province.

Members of the security forces said they had withdrawn from the Anbar Operations Command after it came under attack by the insurgents, who have now trapped them in an area to the west of the city of Ramadi.

Anbar provincial council member Athal Fahdawi described the situation in Ramadi as "total collapse.”

Ramadi is the capital of Anbar, Iraq's largest province, and one of just a few towns and cities to have remained under government control in the vast desert terrain, which borders Saudi Arabia, Syria and Jordan.

The city's fall marked a major setback for the forces fighting against IS: a U.S.-led coalition and the Iraqi security forces, which have been propped up by Iranian-backed Shia militias

IS, which emerged as an offshoot of al Qaeda, controls large parts of Iraq and Syria in a self-proclaimed caliphate where it has massacred members of religious minorities and slaughtered Western and Arab hostages.

The United States and its allies have been pounding the militants for months with airstrikes in both countries.