PARIS — After a string of victories by Islamic State militants, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi appealed Tuesday for more international military support, saying Iraq’s ground forces were largely going it alone despite promises of help.
“This is a failure on the part of the world,” Abadi told journalists at a meeting of foreign ministers from the U.S.-led coalition to assess strategies in its fight against the militants. “There is a lot of talk of support for Iraq. There is very little on the ground.”
The coalition has waged airstrikes against Islamic State targets for months in Iraq and Syria. But in signs of expanded assistance, at least 3,000 U.S. troops in Iraq are training and advising Iraqi security forces, and the United States and its partners are providing weapons and intelligence.
Secretary of State John F. Kerry also told the gathering that the first shipment of a promised 2,000 AT4 antitank missiles, particularly destined to Iraq’s besieged Anbar province, should arrive as early as this week. The State Department later said half the weapons had already arrived.
Kerry spoke by telephone from his hospital bed in Boston, before a four-hour operation Tuesday to repair a broken leg suffered in a cycling accident last weekend. After the surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital, orthopedic surgeon Dennis Burke said that the procedure was “uncomplicated” and that he did not “anticipate that this will interfere with his duties as secretary of state.”
In the telephone call, Kerry called on the leaders to maintain “urgency” in the fight against the militants, a State Department spokesman said.
The comments by Kerry and Abadi reflected the sense of higher stakes at the Paris gathering by senior leaders of the coalition. Despite airstrikes that initially appeared to drive the Islamic State back, the militants have made rapid gains in Iraq and Syria in recent weeks.
But the meeting — planned before the latest Islamic State victories — did not result in any significant change to the wider international strategy against the militants. A joint communique stressed “the urgency to renew and expand our collective endeavor” and pledged to continue to coordinate actions.
While Sunni tribal leaders in Anbar have long called for direct weapons shipments to their forces from the United States and others, charging that Abadi’s Shiite-led government is slow to distribute weapons and has diverted some supplies, the leaders said that they would continue to support tribal efforts “through the Iraqi government.”
The post-conference document referred to declarations of allegiance to the Islamic State by militant groups in Libya, Nigeria and beyond as “mainly symbolic,” but it highlighted the need to defeat the militant group “wherever it appeared.” It also noted that pledges were made to a recently established stabilization fund to provide trained police personnel and emergency assistance to Iraqi communities newly retaken from the Islamic State.
But the top focus of the meeting was the current crisis: how to respond to the Islamic State’s surprisingly easy capture of the city of Ramadi, about 80 miles west of Baghdad, two weeks ago.
“We have much too far to go to relax our sense of urgency. Now is the time for greater resolution, not less,” Kerry said.
“The struggle against Daesh must ultimately be won by the Iraqi people, just as the Syrians must do in their land,” Deputy Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said after the meeting, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State, which is also called ISIS and ISIL. Blinken attended the Paris meeting in Kerry’s stead.
But when asked whether the United States supported allowing Iraq to buy arms from Russia or Iran, he said there was backing for “a plan that Iraq has put into place” to speed deliveries from coalition partners, without offering more specifics.
The U.S.-assembled coalition includes 62 governments offering varying degrees of support. Twenty-four leaders, primarily from Europe and the Arab world, form the core group that attended the conference.
The United States has sought to limit Iran’s role in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq, where Iran maintains close relations with Abadi’s Shiite-led government. Iranian-backed Shiite militias in Iraq have taken an increasingly high profile in the battles, including the ongoing campaign to retake Ramadi.
In a closed-door meeting, the leaders pressed Abadi to move more quickly to address the political and economic concerns of Sunnis, Kurds and other groups in Iraq, participants said.
The fall of Ramadi also has opened rifts with Washington after Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter said that Baghdad needs to sharpen “the will of the Iraqis” to fight the Islamic State. Abadi insisted Tuesday that his forces were “prepared to fight” and were planning the recapture of Ramadi.
But even as Iraqi security forces mobilized, reports said that the Islamic State had seized control of the crucial Ramadi dam, shutting down water supplies to areas where government troops are massing for the counteroffensive.
A morning session of the conference focused on Syria, where a multi-pronged war includes rebel groups seeking to oust President Bashar al-Assad, and Islamic State fighters who control much of the country’s eastern and northern regions.
Although President Obama has said Assad should leave, Washington has pressed for a diplomatic solution and given minimal aid to anti-Assad rebels, while directing most U.S. firepower against the Islamic State.
U.S. partners, including Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar, have grown increasingly exasperated with that strategy and have called on Obama to increase aid to the anti-Assad groups, including establishing a no-fly zone to give the rebels a stronger foothold along the Turkish border in northern Syria.
The administration has resisted the appeals, but a senior administration official said that some movement may be possible after Turkey’s June 7 elections.
“It’s an incredibly urgent situation,” said the official, who briefed reporters Monday ahead of the Paris conference. “We’re not just talking about it, we’re looking for tangible things we can do. We want to help the Turks. . . . We want to get the extremists off their border.”
DeYoung reported from Washington. Brian Murphy in Washington contributed to this report.