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Iraq's Abadi To Seek More U.S. Support As IS Loses More Ground

  • RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq

Iraqi Prime Minster Haidar al-Abadi speaks to the press at the airport in Baghdad before leaving for the United States on April 13.

Iraqi Prime Minster Haidar al-Abadi speaks to the press at the airport in Baghdad before leaving for the United States on April 13.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi is expected to ask for more U.S. military support in the war against Islamic State (IS) militants when he meets with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington.

Before departing for his first visit to the White House since he took office in September, Abadi said his goal on April 14 was to secure a "marked increase in the air campaign" -- a reference to air strikes by a U.S.-led coalition -- and in the "delivery of arms."

He is expected to ask for more U.S. weapons, including billions of dollars worth of pilotless drones, to fight IS militants.

Congressional constraints on the U.S. budget could make Obama unlikely to agree to all the requests.

The visit comes a day after the Pentagon said that the Islamic State (IS) extremist group had lost control of up to 17,000 square kilometers in Iraq following months of air strikes by a U.S.-led coalition and an offensive by Iraqi forces.

A Pentagon spokesman, Army Colonel Steve Warren, said on April 13 that the front lines of the territory held by the IS militants had been pushed farther south and west in Iraq.

He said Iraqi security forces and coalition airpower had "unquestionably inflicted some damage" on IS militants and that the group was "now being slowly pushed back."

But the militants still control a wide swath of land stretching from west and south of the northern town of Sinjar down through Mosul and across Baiji, including the oil refinery there, which is still contested.

In Syria, Warren said IS fighters had maintained its influence on the ground, recently losing areas around the town of Kobani on the Turkish border, but gaining ground around the central city of Homs and the capital, Damascus.

IS militants captured large swaths of territory in June 2014 during a lightning advance through northern Syria and western and northern Iraq.

Also on April 13, Iraqi security forces launched an operation aimed at liberating an area in the western province of Anbar from the IS group.

Ground forces, supported by air strikes, advanced deep into the Bu-Farraj area northeast of the provincial capital, Ramadi.

At least 13 militants were reported killed in the battle.

In southern Ramadi, fierce clashes took place in Hawz and nearby districts where security forces reportedly killed three IS fighters in an ambush.

Security forces also repelled an attack in western Ramadi, killing at least 11 militants.

The assault comes after Abadi announced an operation to retake Anbar last week.

Most of the predominantly Sunni region is controlled by IS militants.

The offensive follows a victory in the city of Tikrit, about 140 kilometers north of Baghdad, which Iraqi forces retook from IS militants early this month with support from U.S.-led air strikes and Shi'ite militias.

Washington fears that the Iranian government, rather than the Iraqi government, controls the Shi'ite militias.

Tikrit was seen to be a dress rehearsal for an expected offensive to remove IS militants from oil-rich Mosul, but concerns that Iraqi forces may not be ready have forced Abadi to announce that they will focus on Anbar Province.

The AFP news agency quoted an unnamed U.S. official saying the campaign to seize Mosul from the militants "needs to happen when it's going to happen," and should not be pinned down to a fixed timetable.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters
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