Senior U.S. officials are considering an Iraqi request for more American military advisers to help Iraqi security forces in their campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The request came up in meetings that Antony Blinken, deputy national security adviser, and other U.S. officials had with senior Iraqi officials last week on a trip to Baghdad and other parts of Iraq, a senior Obama administration official said on Tuesday.
The senior official, who briefed a small group of reporters on condition of anonymity, did not say how many more advisers were requested.
The U.S. has about 1,400 military advisers and diplomatic security personnel in Iraq.
"We need more from the United States," Brig. Gen. Abdul Ameer Kamil, commander of Iraqi military operations in Baghdad, said in an interview quoted in the Los Angeles Times. "We need more airstrikes, more training, new weapons — infantry weapons, artillery, tanks"
Iraq is not requesting American ground forces and, in any event, U.S. President Barack Obama would not send them there, and any military advisers sent there would be limited to providing advice and assistance to the Iraqis doing the fighting, the official said.
A U.S.-led coalition has launched dozens of air strikes in Iraq and Syria to try to push back advances by ISIL, whose fighters operate from a safe haven in Syria and have control over large sections of Iraq.
The U.S. official said the campaign against ISIL is likely to take months, well into next year, and that it will take that much time to take back key areas such as the city of Mosul or Iraq's Anbar province.
"If it weren't for the tribal fighters then Anbar would have fallen," said Faleh Issawi, a member of the Anbar provincial council. "Eighty percent of the province is under the control of IS and the remaining 20 percent is under control of some security forces and tribal fighters."
Iraq’s main military divisions in Anbar have been badly damaged. At least 6,000 Iraqi soldiers were killed through June and double that number has deserted, say medical and diplomatic sources.
As for ISIL advances against Baghdad, the U.S. official said the group had been pushed back and predicted it would not be able to take the city.
Meanwhile, in neighboring Syria, Kurdish defenders of the strategic border town of Kobane await reinforcements after weathering another ISIL assault.
Fighting appeared to have diminished on Wednesday after a fierce attack begun by ISIL fighters almost 48 hours earlier, including suicide bombers, witnesses and monitors said.
ISIL fighters in eastern Kobane were exchanging fire with Kurdish peshmerga in the west and there were reports of an explosion, probably a car bomb, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
A total of 30 ISIL fighters and 11 Kurdish fighters were killed in 24 hours, the U.K.-based monitoring group said late on Tuesday, adding that ISIL was bringing in reinforcements "as a result of the daily losses in Kobane."
As the Kurds continue to fight ISIL, the Pentagon said Tuesday that the vast majority of military supplies airdropped near Kobane had reached the Kurdish fighters they were intended to help, despite an online video showing ISIL fighters with a bundle.
Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said experts were analyzing the video and trying to determine if the bundle was the one the department reported earlier had fallen into the hands of ISIL or if it was a second bundle in the group's possession.
Al Jazeera and wire services