Iraqi PM: US campaign against ISIS too slow

Iraqi PM: US campaign against ISIS too slow
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Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Thursday complained that U.S. airstrikes in the country come too slowly against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

"Bombing missions must be quicker," he said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, where he is visiting this week. 

Al-Abadi said the time between when Iraq — which is coordinating between its fighters and coalition air forces — requests the strikes and when they are carried out is too long.

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The U.S. began airstrikes in Iraq against ISIS last August and has sent more than 3,000 forces to the country since June. So far, the U.S.-led air campaign had struck 5,784 targets as of April 8. 

The White House placed strict limits on U.S. troops' exposure to combat and has not allowed U.S. forward air controllers on the ground to spot targets and call in airstrikes. 

Instead, the U.S. is working through Joint Operations Centers, where Iraqis are in charge of finding targets and calling in strikes. 

The Iraqis are also coordinating between U.S. air forces and Iranian or Iranian-backed fighters on the ground because the U.S. and Iran are not coordinating in Iraq, officials say.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Wednesday called for the U.S. to deploy more troops to Iraq.

"As I discussed with Prime Minister Abadi, in order to defeat [ISIS], I believe the United States should provide further military assistance to Iraq and deploy additional U.S. personnel, including forward air controllers to strengthen our air campaign," he said in a statement. There are currently about 3,040 U.S. forces in Iraq.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said last fall that he could recommend having U.S. forces go into battle with Iraqi forces on complex operations, such as the retaking of Mosul, which ISIS overran last June. 

On Thursday, al-Abadi indicated that Iraqi forces were not yet ready to take on Mosul.