Hagel says US speeding up training of Iraqi forces

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Hagel says US speeding up training of Iraqi forces
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 15: Gen. David Petraeus (R), commander of the International Security Assistance Force and commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan, and Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy (L) testify during a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee March 15, 2011 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Petraeus is in Washington to give his assessment of military progress that would allow the U.S. to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 24: Defense Undersecretary for Policy Michele Flournoy testifies during a hearing before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill September 24, 2009 in Washington, DC. The hearing was to focus on President Barack Obama's decision on missile defense in Europe. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - FEBRUARY 22: U.S. Defense Undersecretary for Policy Michele Flournoy speaks during a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee February 22, 2010 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Flournoy briefed members of the committee on the Operation Moshtarak in Helmand Province of Afghanistan. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ends his speech at the Reagan National Defense Forum 'Building Peace Through Strength for American Security' event at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum in Simi Valley, California, on November 15, 2014. AFP PHOTO/Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks at the Reagan National Defense Forum 'Building Peace Through Strength for American Security' event at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum in Simi Valley, California, on November 15, 2014. AFP PHOTO/Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks at the Reagan National Defense Forum 'Building Peace Through Strength for American Security' event at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum in Simi Valley, California, on November 15, 2014. AFP PHOTO/Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (L) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey hold a press briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, August 21, 2014. Hagel warned that the Islamic State is more than a traditional 'terrorist group' and better armed, trained and funded than any recent threat. 'They marry ideology and a sophistication of strategic and tactical military prowess. They are tremendously well funded. This is beyond anything we have seen,' Hagel told reporters. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel holds a press briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, August 21, 2014. Hagel warned that the Islamic State is more than a traditional 'terrorist group' and better armed, trained and funded than any recent threat. 'They marry ideology and a sophistication of strategic and tactical military prowess. They are tremendously well funded. This is beyond anything we have seen,' Hagel told reporters. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
SIRNAK, TURKEY - AUGUST 20: Iraqi Yazidis, fled from the attacks of army groups led by Islamic State (IS), formerly known as ISIL, take shelter to schools in Sirnak, Turkey on 20 August, 2014. (Photo by Huseyin Bagis/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama makes a statement at Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, on August 20, 2014. The United States has carried out more air strikes in Iraq, a senior US defense official said, as Islamic militants threaten to execute a second US journalist. AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Parents of kidnapped journalist James Foley, Diane Foley and John Foley appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
DIYALA, IRAQ - AUGUST 22: Iranian soldiers hit army groups led by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to give support to peshmergas who fights with ISIL in Diyala, Iraq on 22 August, 2014. Peshmergas struggle to recapture Diyala from army groups led by ISIL. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, VA - NOVEMBER 14: U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announces a series of reforms to the troubled nuclear force during a press briefing at the Pentagon November 14, 2014 in Arlington, Virginia. The measures are designed to shore up the US military's troubled nuclear force after a spate of incidents exposed management and morale problems. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 13: US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (L) testifies beside Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey (R), during the House Armed Services Committee hearing on the Obama administration's strategy and military campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), at Capitol Hill in Washington DC, United States on November 13, 2014. (Photo by Erkan Avci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 13: U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel testifies before the House Armed Services Committee about the ongoing fight against the group calling itself the Islamic State (ISIL) in the Rayburn House Office Building November 13, 2014 in Washington, DC. The United States military continues to bomb ISIL targets in both Iraq and Syria and plans to double the number of American troops in Iraq to 3,000. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is greeted as he arrives for a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill November 13, 2014 in Washington, DC. The committee will hold the hearing about the United State's response to the Islamic State(IS) group's activities in Iraq and Syria. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, D.C. - NOVEMBER 11: Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel attends the Veterans Day Ceremony at the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. on November 11, 2014. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 07: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (R) listens as U.S. President Barack Obama speaks to members of the news media before a meeting with Hagel and other members of the president's cabinet at the White House November 7, 2014 in Washington, DC. Obama talked about the positive economic news and what priorities his administration will be focused on after last Tuesday's election, where the Republicans won a decisive victory in local, state and national races. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel arrives for a Veterans Day ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC, November 11, 2014. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel attends a Veterans Day ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC, November 11, 2014. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 11: U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel waves to veterans and guests after speaking at a Veterans Day ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial November 11, 2014 in Washington, DC. Originally established as Armistice Day in 1919, the holiday was renamed Veterans Day in 1954 by President Dwight Eisenhower, and honors those who have served in the U.S. military. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, D.C. - NOVEMBER 11: Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (C) speaks at the Veterans Day Ceremony at the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. on November 11, 2014. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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FORT IRWIN, Calif. (AP) - Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Sunday that the U.S. military is accelerating its efforts to train and advise Iraqi forces fighting Islamic State militants.

Hagel said U.S. special operations troops in Iraq's western Anbar province are getting an early start on the train-and-advise effort. He said the effort began a few days ago, but did not provide details.

The Pentagon chief spoke to reporters after observing Army training in California's Mojave Desert.

According to plans laid out last week, the U.S. expects to train nine Iraqi security forces brigades and three Kurdish Peshmerga brigades.

Hagel said the speed-up was recommended by Gen. Lloyd Austin, the commander of U.S. Central Command.

Hagel's spokesman, Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, said later that Austin believes getting an early start on training Iraqi forces in Anbar may prompt other countries with a stake in the fight against Islamic State to commit trainers to Iraq.

Approaching the problem of ill-trained and poorly motivated Iraqi soldiers as a coalition rather than as a unilateral U.S. undertaking is a key pillar of U.S. strategy. Partnership is seen as a way of undermining the ideological appeal of Islamic State.

Kirby said a number of countries have made verbal commitments to provide trainers, but he said he could not identify them because they have yet to publicly announce their intended contributions.

The U.S. announced earlier this month that it will send another 1,500 troops to Iraq to expand training and advising of Iraqi security forces. But those troops have not yet departed the U.S., leaving some to question how urgently Washington viewed the mission.

The special operations troops that Hagel said Austin is now putting at al-Asad air base in Anbar had been operating as 12-man advisory teams elsewhere in Iraq since last summer. Kirby said about 50 are now at al-Asad, which was a major air hub for U.S. forces during the 2003-11 war.

The Islamic State group holds key cities in Anbar, including Fallujah.

During his stop at Fort Irwin to see Army desert training, Hagel gave a pep talk to a few hundred soldiers. One asked Hagel when the U.S. was going to send an invasion force to Iraq to fight the Islamic State group.

Hagel said that was not in the cards, echoing President Barack Obama's belief that it would make no sense.

"This has to be an Iraqi effort," Hagel said, adding: "It is their country. They have to do this themselves."

Hagel said he planned to speak Monday with Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Joint Chiefs chairman who spent the weekend in Iraq.

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