Middle East

Jordan ready to train Iraqi troops on its territory

Iraqi soldiers take position in a street of the city of Ramadi, west of the capital Baghdad, on January 19, 2014 during a military operation against anti-government fighters. AFP PHOTO / AZHER SHALLAL

AMMAN: Jordan is ready to host a US training programme for Iraqi troops to help counter a resurgence of Al-Qaeda-linked militants in its neighbour, a minister said in remarks published Sunday.

His comments come as Iraqi forces are locked in battles with anti-government militants who have gained ground in Anbar province west of Baghdad amid a spike in violence across the country.

"Jordan welcomes positively the US request to train Iraqi forces on its territory," Information Minister Mohammed Momani said, in statement carried in the government newspaper Al-Rai.

"This project is part of permanent cooperation between Jordan, Iraq and the United States to fight against terrorism in the region."

On Friday a US defence official told AFP that Washington was waiting for an agreement with Jordan or another country to go ahead with the training programme.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has asked the United States to help the army fight against Islamist extremists, blamed for a spiral of deadly attacks in recent months.

And on Saturday the White House said that Vice President Joe Biden had spoken to Maliki to discuss Washington's support for Iraq's fight against jihadists.

"The two leaders agreed on the importance of the Iraqi government's continued outreach to local and tribal leaders in Anbar province," the White House said.

Maliki said in an interview published Thursday in The Washington Post that he specifically needed US "counter-terrorism" training.

Asked if US trainers would come to Iraq, the prime minister said: "Yes, bringing Americans to Iraq, or Iraqi soldiers could go to Jordan and train."

The US defence official said Washington was preparing to ship "several thousand" M-16 and M-4 assault rifles as well as ammunition to Iraq, after having already provided missiles to Maliki's government.

The training was "likely" to go ahead because both Baghdad and Washington support the idea, he added.

But US officials have said no US troops would be redeployed in Iraq.

The United States led an invasion of Iraq in 2003, toppling Saddam Hussein. American troops withdrew from the country in 2011 after failing to reach a deal with Baghdad providing legal safeguards for US forces.





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