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Obama: U.S. Lacks A 'Complete Strategy' For Training Iraqi Forces


President Obama said today that the United States plans to ramp up its training of Iraqi security forces. The hope is to wage a more effective fight against the self-described Islamic State. That could mean sending more U.S. troops to Iraq. The president spoke today in Germany after a meeting with leaders of the G-7 coucntries and Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi. NPR's Scott Horsley has more.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: The United States has already sent more than 3,000 troops to Iraq to help train and advise that country's security forces. President Obama says the training has made a difference, but the American support has not gone far enough.


BARACK OBAMA: Where we've trained Iraqi forces directly and equipped them and we have a train-and-assist posture, they operate effectively. Where we haven't, morale, lack of equipment, et cetera, may undermine the effectiveness of Iraqi security forces.

HORSLEY: Obama told reporters the Pentagon is reviewing proposals to accelerate the training mission. While military officials tell NPR that could involve hundreds of additional U.S. troops, Obama stopped short of announcing a target number.


OBAMA: We don't yet have a complete strategy because it requires commitments on the part of the Iraqis as well.

HORSLEY: GOP critics were quick to blast Obama for not having a complete strategy. A spokesman for the Republican National Committee asked, what's he been doing for the last 10 months? Richard Fontaine, who heads the Center for a New American Security, says it's not just the number of trainers that's important but also their assignment. He says it would help if trainers could travel outside Iraqi military bases, though he concedes that would also put U.S. forces at greater risk.

RICHARD FONTAINE: The big issue with the Iraqis who have wilted in the face of a fight against ISIS has been their will to stand and to fight for territory. Train and assist and advise efforts by Americans embedded in Iraqi units on the ground have the chance to stiffen the backbone of the forces fighting there and make them far more effective in the field.

HORSLEY: In addition to Iraq, the G-7 leaders talked about how to punish Russia for annexing Crimea and backing separatists in Eastern Ukraine. Obama and the other leaders agreed, economic sanctions against Russia should be extended. Though so far, those sanctions have not forced a change in Vladimir Putin's behavior.


OBAMA: He's got to make a decision. Does he continue to wreck his country's economy and continue Russia's isolation?

HORSLEY: The president quickly headed back to Washington where the Supreme Court is expected to rule shortly on a challenge to his signature health care law. Obama says he's optimistic the high court will preserve the insurance subsidies in that law, and he warned, a decision to end subsidies in nearly three-dozen states would have negative ripple effects throughout the health insurance market.


OBAMA: If somebody does something that doesn't make any sense, then it's hard to - it's hard to fix, and this would be hard to fix. Fortunately, there's no reason to have to do it. It doesn't need fixing.

HORSLEY: Obama was also asked about the big hacking attack revealed last week which may have compromised personnel records of millions of past and present federal employees. Obama says the government needs to beef up its own cybersecurity.


OBAMA: This problem is not going to go away. It is going to accelerate. And that means that we have to be as nimble, as aggressive and as well-resourced as those who are trying to break into these systems.

HORSLEY: Despite reports of Chinese involvement, Obama would not say who investigators suspect is behind that attack. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.
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