NEW YORK (Reuters) - Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said on Friday that he wanted the U.S.-led coalition to bomb more Islamic State targets in his country to help local forces on the ground, who were “winning” the fight against the radical group.
The Iraqi army’s failure to recapture the country’s largest oil refinery from Islamic State after 15 months of fighting is calling into question the government’s plans to retake the northern city of Mosul from the militants.
Iraq’s military has been trying to build momentum at the Baiji refinery and in Anbar province in the west before attempting to seize Mosul, the biggest prize in the war against the hardline Sunni group.
Jaafari, speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, said however, that Iraqi forces were making progress.
“The Iraqi military has made some significant victories. They have pushed terrorists (back) ... and forced them to go back up north towards Mosul,” said Jaafari, who is in New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly. “The Iraqi military has been winning.”
He denied any suggestions that foreign troops would be needed to tackle Islamic State, but said the U.S. and its allies, who have been bombing targets for more than a year, were not doing enough.
“We need equipment, training and intelligence, but not ground troops or bases from this or that country,” he said.
“The frequency of the air force campaign fluctuates and I hope it will get higher frequency in the future,” Jaafari said.
In Washington on Friday, a U.S. military spokesman said the United States is encouraging Iraqi forces to move to retake the city of Ramadi from the militants “as quickly as possible” to deny them the chance to regroup.
The Iraqi military, plagued by corruption, nearly collapsed twice in the past year despite more than $20 billion in U.S. training.
When asked about increased Russian military involvement in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Jaafari said he welcomed it, but said Baghdad had not received any Russian military advisers to help its forces.
“With regard Russia playing a role in alleviating the crisis in Syria, we support all efforts to alleviate (it),” he said.
Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Grant McCool