The Defense Department is preparing small arms and ammunition for shipment to Iraq in response to a request from that country’s prime minister, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said today.
Nouri al-Maliki asked for the help as extremists have launched devastating attacks throughout the country.
In accordance with the security framework established when U.S. troops departed Iraq in December 2011, discussions about ways to improve the Iraqi military are ongoing, Warren said.
“No one has asked, nor have we offered direct military involvement because of the underlying religious issues and extremist issues,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey told NPR this week.
The situation in Iraq has deteriorated since U.S. troops left the country. Suicide bombings have become more frequent and Iraqi government statistics indicate that about 8,000 Iraqis were killed in 2013.
Fighting in Anbar province intensified at the end of 2013 and the Islamic State of Iraq in the Levant -- an al-Qaida affiliated group -- took control of Fallujah and made inroads in Ramadi, the provincial capital.
Dempsey said he was disappointed by the setbacks in Iraq, but also noted he hadn’t yet given up on the country.
“It’s a little premature to declare that this conflict in Ramadi and Fallujah portends the collapse of the state of Iraq or an irreversible setback,” the chairman told NPR’s Tom Bowman.
(Follow Claudette Roulo on Twitter: @rouloafps)