BAGHDAD Iraq’s prime minister said Monday ahead of a much anticipated trip to Washington that his country still needs U.S. assistance to counter the threat posed by the Islamic State group and that his administration is committed to introducing security sector reforms as rogue militia groups stage near-daily attacks against the seat of his government.
In the end, we will still need cooperation and assistance at levels that might require direct and military support, and support on the ground, Mustafa al-Kadhimi said, but the levels depend on the changing nature of the threats posed by terrorist groups.
Al-Kadhimi is slated to meet with President Donald Trump in Washington this week to conclude a strategic dialogue launched in June to reconfigure U.S.-Iraq ties.
In an exclusive interview Monday with the Associated Press, he said Iraqi forces are capable of fighting IS without the need for foreign combat troops on the ground. But, he said, the next stage of cooperation with the U.S. would require continued training and weapons support.
Sworn in as premier in May in the wake of historic mass anti-government protests, al-Kadhimis administration inherited a myriad of crises. State coffers in the crude-dependent country were slashed following a severe drop in oil prices, adding to the woes of an economy already struggling with the aftershocks of the global coronavirus pandemic.
Despite this, his administration set a lofty agenda including economic reform, battling corruption, avenging protesters and bringing arms under the authority of the state.
The latter has pitted his government against rogue Iran-backed militia groups.
The recent assassination of prominent Iraqi commentator Hisham al-Hashimi and the kidnapping of German art curator Hella Mewis have lead many to question the limits of his leadership.
But al-Kadhimi said these were perpetrated by those with an interest in profiting from chaos.
These criminal acts are the result of many years of conflict, he said, blaming the poor policies and improper management of his predecessors which has undermined the authority of the state. It is not surprising then that criminals work here and there to destabilize security.
We are committed to reforming the security establishment and enhancing its ability to deal with these kinds of challenges and holding accountable those who fail to protect civilians and put an end to these outlawed groups, he said.
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