The United States has been sending Hellfire missiles and surveillance drones to Iraq to help its government fight back against an al-Qaida-backed extremist group, but experts worry that the response may not be enough to reverse increasing terrorist incidents.
The group, the Islamic Slate, has intimidated towns in northern and western Iraq, reports The New York Times,
including an incident last week in which the commander of the Iraqi Army's Seventh Division and a dozen officers were killed.
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The Christmas Day bombing attack
on Christians in Baghdad has also been tenatively linked to al-Qaida interests.
Senior Obama administration officials have asserted that Iraq has become less violent, but more than 8,000 Iraqis have been killed in 2013, including 952 security force members, according to the United Nations, marking the highest violence level since 2008.
The U.S. aid, for which the Iraqi government is paying, includes 75 Hellfire missiles that were delivered last week. Iraq is also expected to receive 10 ScanEagle reconnaissance drones from the U.S. by March.
Meanwhile, American intelligence and counterterrorism officials report they've mapped out al-Qaida network interests in Iraq and are sharing the information with the country's government.
The Obama administration has also given the Iraqi government three Aerostat balloons, reports The New York Times, and plans to deliver 48 Raven reconnaissance drones before 2014. Next fall, the first of the F-16 fighter jets the county has bought will be delivered as well.
Some experts claim that sending reconnaissance drones, and not armed ones, will hinder Iraq's efforts.
"Giving them some ScanEagle drones is great," said Michael Knights, an expert on Iraqi security at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "But is it really going to make much difference? Their range is tiny.
"There is one place in the world where al-Qaida can run a major affiliate without fear of a U.S. drone or air attack, and that is in Iraq and Syria," Knights said.
A plan to lease and sell Apache helicopter gunships to Iraq is on hold, though, with lawmakers hesitant to sell Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki weapons he could use to intimidate his political rivals.
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