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US considers arming and training Sunni tribes in Anbar

October 31, 2014 at 2:52 pm

The US is looking at ways if engaging with the Sunni Muslims in Iraq and empowering them in their fight against Islamic State (ISIS) militants, General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said yesterday.

In a joint press conference with Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, Dempsey said: “We need to expand the train-advise-and-assist mission into al-Anbar province. But the precondition for that is that the government of Iraq is willing to arm the tribes.”

He said that there were indications that the Iraqi government would agree to this.

“We’ve got a programme in place where we’re beginning to restore some offensive capability and mindset to the Iraqi security forces. We need to think about how to do that with the tribes,” he said.

For his part, Hagel emphasised that “the Sunni tribes are going to have to be part of this,” adding that “the tribes must participate in their government and areas”.

Since the start of the year, various parts of the Anbar province, which is predominantly Sunni, has been subject to the control of ISIS and loyal armed groups from tribes who rejected the policies of former Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki. They described Al-Maliki’s policies as sectarian.

A US-led coalition launched air strikes on ISIS targets. ISIS has taken control of large areas in Iraq and Syria, and announced last June the establishment of a Caliphate State. The group has committed various violent acts such as beheading hostages and committing massacres against minorities.