Iranian-backed Shiite Muslim militias in Iraq have vowed to fight against US troops if they are deployed in the country as part of the battle against the DAESH terrorist group.
"We will chase and fight any American force deployed in Iraq," Kata'ib Hezbollah militia spokesman Jafaar Hussaini said on Tuesday.
"Any such American force will become a primary target for our group. We fought them before and we are ready to resume fighting," he added, reiterating similar threats made previously by the Badr Organisation and Asaib Ahl al Haq militias.
The Shiite militias are all part of a coordinated offensive led by the Iraqi government to reclaim territory currently under DAESH control.
DAESH seized Mosul, Iraq’s second biggest city after the capital Baghdad, in the summer of 2014 before breaking through the Sykes-Picot border to create a corridor linking them to their branch in Syria.
The Al Qaeda offshoot expanded into Ramadi - the capital of Iraq’s Anbar province - in May, as they continue to sweep across the country’s mainly Sunni Muslim regions.
Having been on the verge of extinction in 2010 with the majority of its leaders killed or captured, DAESH was revived with support from former commanders of Iraq’s late autocrat leader Saddam Hussein, who was executed by the new US-backed Iraqi government in 2006.
DAESH’s sudden rise was largely blamed on the polarising policies of former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, under whose reign sectarianism between Sunnis and Shiites became more apparent.
US-led coalition air strikes last year helped Iraqi government troops supported by the Shiite militias retake the city of Tikrit from DAESH, in what was seen as a rare instance of overlapping American and Iranian interests.
In October, Master Sgt Joshua L. Wheeler became the first US soldier to die in combat against DAESH during a joint operation with Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces to rescue hostages being held near the city of Kirkuk.
US Defense Secretary Ash Carter told the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that the US will be deploying a "specialised expeditionary targeting force" to help the Iraqi government and Peshmerga fight against DAESH.
“These special operators will over time be able to conduct raids, free hostages, gather intelligence and capture [DAESH] leaders," Carter said.
However, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi, on the same day, denied that his country needs the help of foreign troops to fight DAESH.
"We do not need foreign ground combat forces on Iraqi land," Abadi said in a statement, adding that "any military operation or the deployment of any foreign forces - special or not - in any place in Iraq cannot happen without its approval and coordination and full respect of Iraqi sovereignty."
At present, approximately 3,500 US troops are advising the Iraqi government in the fight against DAESH, but two senior Republican senators on Sunday called for this figure to be almost tripled to 10,000.