By Debbie Gregory.
During Operation Iraqi Freedom, more than one third of all U.S. casualties occurred in Iraq’s Anbar province. The Anbar province, with a heavy Sunni population, continues to be major area of conflict between the mainly Shiite Iraqi government, and the Sunni militant group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which has ties to Al Qaeda in both Iraq and Syria.
ISIL, looking to establish a Sunni-controlled state in the Anbar province, overtook the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi. While Iraqi police and tribal militias were able to reclaim most of Ramadi, Fallujah remains under the control of ISIL fighters. On January 3rd, ISIL proclaimed Fallujah to be an independent territory called the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The state’s sovereignty has not been officially recognized, and could be short-lived, as the Iraqi Army prepares to march on Fallujah.
In November, Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki asked the U.S. for arms and assistance. While the U.S. will not put forces on the ground to combat the ISIL insurgents, the United States has vowed to help the Iraqi government. To that end, 75 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and approximately 100-200 troops were sent as part of the Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq (OSC-I). The missiles were intended to assist the Iraqi Army with fighting against ISIL in Ramadi and Fullujah. The troops of the OSC-I are there in strictly training and advisory roles, and they have orders not to assume any combat roles.
The U.S. government also agreed to deliver another 100 Hellfire Missiles, as well as 10 ScanEagle Unmanned Arial Vehicles (UAVs, or drones). This shipment was supposed to be delivered to the Iraqi government next September, but will now be rushed to aid them sooner. The rush delivery could still take several months to complete.
Since the formation of the Iraqi Federal Government, the United States has sold Iraq more than $14 billion worth of arms and military equipment. In July-August of 2013, Iraq paid more than $4.5 billion for arms, including missiles, personnel transport vehicles and anti-aircraft weaponry.