US plan to train Iraqi troops in a third country
WASHINGTON - The US military is planning to train Iraqi troops in a third country to help counter a resurgence of Al-Qaeda-linked militants, a defense official said on Friday.
Pending an agreement with Jordan or another nation to host the effort, the training was "likely" to go ahead as both Baghdad and Washington supported the idea, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Pentagon officials were not contemplating sending an American team of military trainers into Iraq, partly because it would require negotiating a legal agreement with Baghdad that proved elusive in the past.
Such a move also would spark a bitter political debate in Washington that would revive old wounds over the US-led war in Iraq.
"We're in discussions with the Iraqis on how we can improve the Iraqi security forces," Colonel Steven Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters.
He said a possible counter-terrorism training effort was under consideration and that the Pentagon planned to send guns and ammunition on the request of the Iraqi government.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki "is looking for essentially small arms and ammunition, stuff that can help him right now" in the fight against Islamist extremists, Warren said.
The United States was preparing to ship "several thousand" M-16 and M-4 assault rifles as well as ammunition, the defense official said.
Iraqi security forces are battling to roll back anti-government militants who have gained ground in the western Anbar province in recent weeks.
US troops, which led an invasion of Iraq in 2003 that toppled Saddam Hussein, withdrew from the country in 2011 after failing to reach a deal with Baghdad providing legal protections for American forces.