Report: Obama approved secret plan to aid Iraq

President Obama late last year authorized a secret plan to help Iraqi Security Forces in their efforts to root out Sunni militants, The Wall Street Journal reported late Friday.

Obama directed a handful of U.S. officials to set up a fusion intelligence center in Iraq’s capital of Baghdad.

To provide intelligence to Iraq, the U.S. deployed surveillance flights over the country usually once a month to find where members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria were based, former and current U.S. officials told the Journal

The U.S. provided their Iraqi counterparts with a limited number of photographic images of ISIS’s desert encampments, the report said. The lack of full collaboration highlighted U.S. concerns that the information could be obtained by Iran. 

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At the end of April, the Pentagon sent a team of U.S. Special Operations officers to evaluate the capabilities of Iraq’s security forces. They discovered Sunni officers were forced out of the military and the overall leadership declined. Thousands of Iraqi forces left their posts.

"Whoa, what the hell happened here?" one senior U.S. official said, recounting Washington’s reaction.

Since ISIS recently took over Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul, the Obama administration has dramatically stepped up their surveillance in Iraq, the report said.

Looking back, one senior U.S. official suggested the Obama administration wasn’t entirely focused on the small team sent to Iraq to manage these secret operations.

It "wasn't a priority and nobody thought it was a serious effort," the official said. 

News of the secret plan comes just a few days after Obama announced he was dispatching 300 military officers to Iraq to help the country’s security forces. He has also deployed 275 U.S. personnel to help protect the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.