By Rowena Mason – Source: The Guardian – Islamic State (Isis) will not be pushed out of Iraq for another year or two because the country’s armed forces are not ready or equipped to fight back on the ground yet, the foreign secretary has said.
In the runup to a conference in London with the US secretary of state, John Kerry, and Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, Philip Hammond said it would be months before Iraqi troops were sufficiently trained by the international coalition to take on Isis.
Some of the Iraqi army disbanded and fled when Isis advanced through the country, although Kurdish peshmerga fighters from the semi-autonomous north are still fighting against the insurgents.
Despite the admission that it would take a long time to defeat Isis, Hammond said there had been no failure of the international coalition that includes the UK because air strikes had succeeded in stopping its advance.
Speaking on Sky News, Hammond said: “It’s going to take a year, two years to push Isil back out of Iraq but we’re doing the things that need to be done to turn the tide against Isil and I’m confident that Isil will be defeated in Iraq. I don’t accept it’s failed at all. What we’ve done is the coalition air strikes have halted the Isil advance which was surging across Iraq last summer, it’s started to turn it back.”
The conference will be attended by ministers and officials from 21 countries to discuss the situation in Syria and Iraq, where up to 31,000 Isis fighters hold swaths of territory.
The foreign secretary told BBC Radio 4 that the London conference would take stock of training of Iraqi forces and the wider strategy of tackling international extremism. “This isn’t only a military campaign. The point of the conference today is to look at the other areas where we have to make progress as well,” he said.
“We have to cut off Isil’s flow of finance, we have to cut off the flow of foreign fighters, we’ve got to tackle the underlying narrative, we’ve got to work together as a community of nations to support the Iraqi government in its effort to reach out to the Sunni communities within Iraq, the loyalty of which to the Iraqi regime is going to be crucial in defeating Isil in Iraq.”