|US to battle jihadists in Iraq
Washington vowed Wednesday to boost aid to Iraq and is mulling drone strikes amid fears Iraqi forces are crumbling in face of militants increasingly emboldened since the US withdrawal.
Iraqi officials have already privately asked the US to consider sending in drones to root out jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), who in a lightning offensive have seized a swathe of the north.
The request has been turned down in the past, but Washington is now weighing several possibilities for more military assistance to Baghdad, including drone strikes, a US official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Resorting to such aircraft -- which remain highly controversial in Afghanistan and Pakistan -- would mark a dramatic shift in the US engagement in Iraq, after the last American troops pulled out in late 2011.
"The United States has been fast to provide necessary support for the people and government of Iraq,'' National Security Advisor Susan Rice told a Washington think-tank Wednesday.
"We are working together to roll back aggression and counter the threat'' posed by ISIL to Iraq and the region, Rice said.
But she insisted the US "must do more to strengthen our partners' capacity to defeat the terrorist threat on their home turf by providing them the necessary training, equipment and support.''
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki stressed there were no current plans to send US troops back to Iraq, where around 4,500 Americans died in the eight-year conflict.
She also denied the offensive, in which the militants seized northern Mosul and then Tikrit, had caught Washington by surprise or marked a failure of US policy in the country it invaded in 2003. --AFP