“This is an Iraqi affair and the government did not ask the US Department of Defense to be involved in direct operations,” spokesman Sa’ad al-Hadithi told NBC News. “We have enough soldiers on the ground.”
Hadithi made it clear that any involvement of US forces that stretches beyond their “train and advise” mission must be cleared with Baghdad – as mandated under international law.
Thus far Iraq has only cleared a US air campaign over its territory against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL). For now, Hadithi stressed, Iraq only needs US support in “arming and training [Iraqi] forces.” Around 3,300 US troops are involved in the mission in Iraq.
The statement by the Iraqi government follows a statement made by US Defense Secretary Ash Carter about America’s intent to step up US military activity in Iraq and Syria, where US forces have been conducting air raids against IS targets. Carter’s statement also comes just days after American forces participated in a raid to rescue IS hostages in Iraq.
The US will resort to “direct action on the ground” against ISIS both in Iraq and Syria, if needed, Carter said in a testimony before the Senate Armed Services committee on Tuesday.