WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama says the U.S. wants to support the Iraqi government in its fight against the Islamic State group and he says that means the U.S. and its allies need to think about whether they are deploying military assets in the region effectively.
His comments Tuesday came after Defense Secretary Ash Carter over the weekend criticized Iraqi forces, saying their men fled the Islamic State advance on Ramadi without fighting back.
Obama did not respond to questions about Carter's comments. But he did say the challenge posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and the turmoil in Libya have forced NATO to look south as well as east in the alliance's mission.
"That means an increase in defense capacity building with other countries like Iraq or (Persian Gulf) countries that are interested in working with us, as well as the African Union," he said after meeting in the Oval Office with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. "It also means we have to think about whether we are deploying and arranging our assets effectively to meet that challenge."
Iraq has announced the launch of a major military operation to drive the Islamic State from the western Anbar province. The Iraqi troops are out to retake the Sunni heartland where the extremist group captured the provincial capital of Ramadi.