BAGHDAD, June 2 –Iraq’s plan to recapture the western city of Ramadi from Islamic State (IS) militants will dominate a meeting Tuesday in Paris of foreign ministers from the international coalition fighting the group, a senior U.S. official said.
In the wake of the damaging defeat in Ramadi this month, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi will outline how his government intends to retake it and what coalition partners can do to help, a senior State Department official told reporters.
“This is not a business-as-usual meeting,” said the senior official, speaking on condition of anonymity by teleconference.
“We’re coming to discuss with Prime Minister Abadi his plan for liberating Ramadi and Anbar province.”
Under a campaign plan adopted by Abadi’s cabinet shortly after Ramadi’s fall, the Iraqis hope to mobilize the Sunni tribes of Anbar province, deploy police units under new leadership, channel reconstruction aid quickly to recaptured areas and ensure all Shiite militias are operating under Baghdad’s authority, the official said.
The Iraqi government’s campaign plan places a top priority on asserting Baghdad’s authority over all Shiite militia units.
Some of the Shiite volunteer fighters backed by Iran have remained outside of the central government’s control in the mostly Sunni area, prompting concerns in Washington that Tehran’s role could aggravate deep sectarian divisions.
But the official said Abadi’s battle plan for Ramadi will ensure that all militias, including Shiite volunteer fighters, answer to Baghdad’s authority, the official said.
“It’s very important … that all forces be brought under the command and control of the Iraqi government and the Iraqi prime minister. That’s something that’s a fundamental element of the plan,” he said.
The Paris talks will include foreign ministers from thye so-called “small group” of the anti-IS coalition, including representatives from Britain, Canada, Germany, France, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
John Allen, the retired US general who serves as the White House’s envoy to the coalition, will take part in the discussions along with other senior American officials.
But Secretary of State John Kerry, who is recovering from a cycling accident in Switzerland, will not be able to attend in person and instead will listen in by phone, officials said.
The U.S.-led coalition is heavily focused on efforts to train Iraqi army troops to pave the way for counter-offensives to seize back territory in Anbar and elsewhere, the senior official said.
“The troops in Ramadi that retreated were not troops that we trained,” the official said.
“Some of the troops that will part in the counter-attack (in Ramadi) we anticipate will be troops that we train.”