BAGHDAD, March 9 (UPI) -- U.S. Gen. Martin Dempsey, on his way to Iraq, said the work of 2,500 U.S. military advisers was being slowed by unprepared and unavailable Iraqi troops.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke while aboard the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, as he traveled to Baghdad, where this week he will meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. The foremost topic on the agenda is a discussion on how the Shiite-led government will keep Iraq from falling into sectarian conflict after a military operation to remove Islamic State militants from the city of Tikrit. "Right now we don't need more advisers on the ground. We've got trainers and advisers that are waiting for some of the Iraqi units to show up, and when they've shown up, a handful of them, they've shown up understrength and sometimes without the proper equipment. The Iraqi government can actually fix that themselves," Dempsey said.
He said earlier the operation in Tikrit is reaching success, with only several hundred IS troops still fighting Iraqi forces and militias numbering about 23,000. The United States has no direct role in the battle for Tikrit, a city northwest of Baghdad with a largely Sunni population.
"The important thing about this operation in Tikrit in my view is less about how the military aspect of it goes and more about what follows, because if the Sunni population is then allowed to continue to live its life the way it wants to, and can come back to their homes, then I think we're in a really good place. But if what follows the Tikrit operation is not that, if there's no reconstruction that follows it, if there's no inclusivity that follows it, if there's the movement of populations out of their homeland that follows it, then I think we've got a challenge in the campaign."
Stability in Tikrit would ensure a secure supply route north to Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, which has been under IS control since June 2014.