Official: US will step up training for Iraq forces

The United States is planning to step up training for Iraq forces as they battle a resurgent al Qaeda in the country, a U.S. official said Tuesday at a congressional hearing. 

Ambassador Anne Patterson, assistant secretary of State for near eastern affairs, said that the U.S. has been a reliable partner with allies in the region, despite criticism that the U.S. has lost credibility in the region.

For example, in the face of a growing al Qaeda presence in the country, Patterson said the U.S. has provided Iraq with hellfire missiles, surveillance drones, and has recently approved the sale of attack helicopters.

“I think it’s very difficult to say that we’ve abandoned the Iraqis because I think we’re very intensively engaged there,” she said.

“We have also tried to step up training. We’re planning to step up training. We have an enormous foreign military sales and foreign military financing program with Iraq,” Patterson said. 

Although Patterson did not specify what kind of training it was, U.S. contractors have typically provided training for Iraqi forces as part of a foreign military sales program under the State Department. 

American troops left Iraq in December 2011 after its government and the U.S. were unable to sign a bilateral security agreement that would have allowed a small U.S. military force to maintain a presence in the country. Currently, about 200 U.S. forces are there providing embassy security and advising Iraqi defense officials. 

There have been recent discussions within the Pentagon on sending U.S. special operations troops to Jordan to train Iraqi forces, but officials say there are not yet plans to do so. 

President Obama is scheduled to meet with the King of Jordan in California this Friday.