US ‘quietly expanding’ intelligence presence in war-torn Iraq

ISIL militants in IraqBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS |
The United States is “quietly expanding” its intelligence operations in Iraq in response to the worsening security situation in the country, according to American government sources. The Reuters news agency reports that US officials have been holding a series of “urgent meetings” in Washington and Iraqi capital Baghdad. The meetings center on finding ways to contain the growing destabilization in the Middle Easter country, which the US occupied from 2003 to 2011. The news agency cited one former and two current US government officials in claiming that a “high-level Pentagon team” is already in Iraq holding successive consultations with Iraqi military and intelligence figures. Many of the conversations in these meetings are believed to center on the activities of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a Sunni militant group that has been ideologically aligned with al-Qaeda for most of its existence. Founded in response to the US invasion of Iraq, ISIL became informally known as “al-Qaeda in Iraq” until 2014, when al-Qaeda officially severed all ties to the group, following a bitter power struggle. According to Reuters’ sources, the pressure for the US to respond to the worsening situation in Iraq comes mostly from the Pentagon. But it is unclear whether the White House will continue to intensify American involvement in the country, said the source, adding that Washington’s intelligence presence in Iraq is now “more than before, but not really a lot”. The news agency cited another US government source, who said that a second group of “senior US policy officials”, known as the “Deputies Committee”, has been meeting in Washington to discuss possible responses to the deteriorating security situation in Iraq. Many observers warn that the predominantly Shiite country appears to be on the brink of total collapse, four months after the Shiite-controlled government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki declared war against Sunni militants, including ISIL, in Iraq’s Anbar province. The war has proven to be extremely bloody and costly in both lives and material resources, and shows no signs of ending. Reuters approached the White House for a comment on the story, but spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan declined to comment.

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