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Obama urges urgency in training of Iraqi forces to counter ISIS (LEAD)

President Barack Obama stressed the need to more quickly train Iraqi troops in order to succeed in fighting against Islamic State fighters, saying that Iraq Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi agrees on the desire for more security forces who are “trained, fresh, well-equipped and focused.”

The two leaders met Monday in Germany in the latest high-level effort to strategize against the militant group that swept through large areas of Iraq a year ago and has persisted in some of its biggest cities despite a U.S.-led campaign of airstrikes backing Iraqi ground forces.

Obama said the Pentagon is working on plans to boost the training effort, and that those who have been trained are operating “effectively.” But he said recruiting, particularly from Sunni tribes, needs to be a priority.

“One of the things that we’re still seeing is, in Iraq, places where we’ve got more training capacity than we have recruits,” he said.

The president also reiterated the need to stop the flow of foreign fighters, saying thousands of militants are still going into Syria and on to Iraq.

“Not all of that is preventable, but a lot of it is preventable if we’ve got better cooperation, better coordination, better intelligence, if we are monitoring what’s happening at the Turkish-Syria border more effectively,” Obama said.

“This is an area where we’ve been seeking deeper cooperation with Turkish authorities who recognize it’s a problem, but haven’t fully ramped up the capacity they need,” he added.

Abadi agreed on the need to keep more militants from joining the fight.

“The influx of foreign fighters that goes into Syria and into Iraq, and it creates more of the bloodshed, more of the destruction … and blood spilling of the innocents,” Abadi said through a translator.

The prime minister also called on the coalition to help Iraq stop the Islamic State group from smuggling oil, which they sell to generate funds.

In Washington, Senator John McCain said he would like to see any strategy for fighting the militants to include U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq.

Also Monday, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said “friendly forces” have started moving into the town of Baiji, where Islamic State fighters are inside the country’s largest oil refinery.

Warren said the forces are rooting out the enemy, but that it is too early to say the town has been liberated from the militants.

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