Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi predicted Sunday that his country will defeat Islamic State military forces “within weeks” but acknowledged the terror group will continue to exist until it’s eradicated in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.
“We are defeating them militarily,” al Abadi told “Fox News Sunday.” “As a terrorist organization … they will try. So that's where we need the efforts of others. Flush them out of Syria and other places.”
Iraqi forces, backed by a U.S.-led international coalition, early this year drove Islamic State fighters from the eastern part of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. And the fight has now moved to Mosul’s densely populated western neighborhoods.
Iraqi and coalition forces have increasingly turned to artillery and airstrikes in the difficult fight. The U.S. military, in fact, is being held responsible for a March 17 strike in which at least 100 people were purportedly killed. U.S. officials have opened an investigation.
Al Abadi also suggested Sunday that President Obama didn't want to get involved in the fight against the Islamic State, or ISIS, but was forced into the situation when the terror group crossed the Syrian border and occupied 40 percent of Iraq.
In 2003, a U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq and toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein. However, the effort lasted roughly eight years.
“He just wanted just to forget Iraq,” the prime minister said. “I mean, slaughtering people. There was a lot of pressure on President Obama."
He also said the United States appears determined to defeat ISIS and that the U.S. and Iraq are allies, which made President Trump’s original travel ban on his country unacceptable.
“We are allies. We are victims of terrorism,” al Abadi said. “It’s not acceptable to us, especially when you have U.S. soldiers … working with Iraqis in Iraq. It was very tough for them to tell Iraqis, ‘I’m working with you, but I consider you as a threat to the U.S.’ ”
Trump campaigned on a promise to dramatically ramp up the assault on Islamic State militants and has vowed to eradicate ISIS. His revised travel ban, held up in federal court like the first one, does not include Iraq.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis recently met at the State Department with al Abadi and foreign officials to explore new ideas to expand the fight against ISIS in Mosul.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.