WASHINGTON (AFP) – Iraqi government forces are in a “tenuous” position in the west of the country but are holding out for the moment against Islamic State militants, US defence officials said Friday.
Iraq’s army is under mounting pressure in Anbar province, even as the world’s attention has been fixed on the northern Syrian town of Kobane, where Kurdish defenders are battling an IS offensive, officials said.
“It’s tenuous there. They are being resupplied and they’re holding their own, but it’s tough and challenging,” said a senior defence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“I think it’s fragile there now,” the official told AFP.
Dozens of US-led air strikes in recent weeks in western Iraq, including near the city of Ramadi, have helped counter the IS fighters and the capital Baghdad remained secure, the official said.
The Islamic State group has so far failed to take the strategic Haditha dam, with coalition bombing raids helping the Iraqi government fend off militant assaults.
But the situation has illustrated how the Iraqi troops are far from an effective force and in urgent need of training, officials said.
The difficult circumstances in Anbar offered a stark contrast with battlefield reports from the country’s north, where more capable Kurdish soldiers have made some headway.