Special operations forces from Iraq, Jordan and the U.S. conduct an exercise June 20, 2013, as part of Eager Lion multinational military maneuvers at the King Abdullah Special Operations Training Center (KASOTC) in Amman, Jordan. A small number of U.S. special operations forces are in Jordan training Iraqi troops to fight al-Qaida. (Maya Alleruzzo / AP)
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A small number of U.S. special operations forces are in Jordan training Iraqi troops to fight al-Qaida.
As first reported by Reuters, fewer than 100 U.S., Iraqi and Jordanian troops are involved in the effort to bolster the Iraqis’ counterterrorism skills and special operations capabilities. A former senior U.S. commander in Iraq told Military Times on Monday that the training will help Iraqi special operators forces refine their tactical skills in the fight against resurgent al-Qaida militants in Iraq.
“This is, of course, a resumption of the kind of training that was conducted in Jordan during the development of Iraqi SOF starting in 2004 and that continued there for several years after that until adequate training facilities in Iraq were established as levels of violence were reduced by the operations conducted during the Surge,” the commander said via email, referring to the U.S. military’s 2007 strategy shift designed to improve security in key parts of the country.
With the exception of a small U.S. military contingent at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, all U.S. troops left Iraq in December 2011 after U.S. and Iraqi negotiators failed to reach an agreement that would provide legal protection to allow U.S. troops to stay in Iraq beyond their agreed departure date.
Since then, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s policies to sideline Sunnis and the civil war in neighboring Syria have helped al-Qaida in Iraq to come roaring back, raising levels of violence there to the highest levels in years. Earlier this year, al-Qaida militants took over key cities in Anbar province, including Fallujah and Ramadi, where many U.S. troops lost their lives.
Amid the escalating violence, U.S. lawmakers in January removed obstacles to sell 24 AH-64E Apache helicopters to Iraq, but Sen. John McCain has recently called for the sale to be reconsidered after reports surfaced indicating Iraq purchased weapons from Iran. The Iraqi government has said it rejected a proposal from Iran to sell the Iraqi military weapons.
The U.S. government has also agreed to accelerate the sale of Hellfire missiles and ScanEagle remotely piloted aircraft to Iraq.