When President Barack Obama told Americans the United States was wrapping up its military footprint in Iraq after seven years of bloodshed, more than 4,000 U.S. troop deaths and hundreds of billions of dollars spent in a war he opposed, he made clear that “violence will not end with our combat mission,” and vowed that the U.S. would “provide support for the Iraqi people as both a friend and a partner.” To that end, the White House expected to leave behind a transitional force of around 50,000, but failure to reach agreement guaranteeing U.S. troops immunity from Iraqi prosecution resulted in a full withdrawal before the end of 2011.
Two years later, both countries are struggling for a response to the surge of Al-Qaeda fighters from neighboring Syria into the western Iraqi province of Anbar, where they captured Ramadi and Fallujah.
For Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the images of insurgents firing into the air and flying Al-Qaeda’s black flags underscore the case he has made for years that his government needs more and better weaponry from the U.S. to counter extremists. “Hard as it is to believe, Iraq doesn’t have a single fighter jet to protect its airspace,” Maliki wrote in an op-ed published in The New York Times last year, in which he also urged the U.S. to supply attack helicopters and higher-grade weapons.
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