The United States says it is "accelerating" its deliveries of military equipment to Iraq to help the government fight Al-Qaeda-linked militants.
The comments were made by White House spokesman Jay Carney on January 6 as fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) last week seized parts of Fallujah and the nearby capital of Anbar Province, Ramadi.
Carney told reporters in Washington that the United States was "looking to provide an additional shipment of Hellfire missiles” as early as this spring.
In an effort to help Iraq track militant groups, the spokesman said the United States would also provide more surveillance drones: 10 in the upcoming weeks and another 48 later this year.
Carney added that Washington was "working closely with the Iraqis to develop a holistic strategy to isolate the Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups." But he insisted that Iraq must handle the conflict itself.
With hundreds of residents already fleeing shelling and air strikes by government forces, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is calling on residents of Fallujah to take action to expel the militants from the city and avert an assault by the Iraqi Army.
In a statement broadcast on state-run television on January 6, Maliki warned that Fallujah could face the "danger of armed clashes" if the military moves in. The prime minister added that he had ordered security forces not to attack in residential areas.
Iran, an ally of Maliki's government, has offered assistance. The state-run Islamic Republic News Agency quoted the deputy chief of staff of Iran’s military as offering "equipment and advice" to help in the fight against the militants. However, General Mohammad Hejazi said there had been no request from Baghdad for a joint operation.
The latest fighting broke out in Anbar Province, west of Baghdad, on December 30 after a Sunni protest camp in Ramadi was dismantled by government forces. The government had accused the camp of serving as a base for Al-Qaeda-linked militants.
Iraq’s Sunni minority has for years accused the Shi'ite-led government of seeking to marginalize their community.
Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP