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Dempsey: Leaders Wait to Hear From Iraq Assessment Teams

By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

U.S. officials are waiting to hear the assessment that U.S. special operations troops are making of Iraqi security forces before making a decision on further support, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here yesterday.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey told reporters following a speech at the Pacific Club here that U.S. officials could not decide what kind of assistance to provide when Iraq first asked for help.

“We didn’t have enough information to understand what kind of assistance we could provide,” he said.

The six assessment teams -- each led by a senior officer -- have started fanning out of Baghdad to visit Iraqi brigades and larger units. Reports out of Iraq when the extremists from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant first crossed into western Iraq had the Iraqi army breaking and running. ISIL militants took Iraq’s third-largest city, Mosul, and were moving south toward Baghdad.

Dempsey said it is important to note that the assessment is being conducted concurrently with Iraq’s political leaders seeking to form a new government. “As I’ve said repeatedly, their ability to find political reconciliation among groups and to present an inclusive face to the people of Iraq -- who are counting on them to lead -- will be an important factor in determining what we do going forward,” he said.

The assessment teams are part of the second group of Americans ordered to Iraq. The first was a security team to protect the U.S. personnel and the U.S. Embassy. Also part of the second group were service members who set up a joint operations center with Iraqi forces.

The third group, with helicopters and remotely piloted aircraft, will hold a critical piece of infrastructure at Baghdad International Airport.

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @garamoneDoDNews)