‘No will’ to fight ISIS? US Defense Sec blasts Iraqi troops

US Defense Secretary Ash Carter has lashed out at the Iraqi army, which last week abandoned the major central city of Ramadi, as well as millions of dollars’ worth of equipment, to the Islamic State, despite reportedly outnumbering the jihadists 10-to-1.

“What apparently happened was that the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight. They were not outnumbered. In fact, they vastly outnumbered the opposing force, and yet they failed to fight, they withdrew from the site,” Carter, who was appointed earlier this year, told CNN in scathing commentary.

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“We can give them training, we can give them equipment – we obviously can’t give them the will to fight,” Carter said, adding that he still hopes that US training and support will bear some fruit over time, as “only if they fight” can Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS/ISIL) be defeated.

However, Hakim Al-Zamili, the head of Iraq’s parliamentary defense and security committee, dismissed Carter’s claims as “unrealistic and baseless.”

“The US failed to provide good equipment, weapons and aerial support,” Al-Zamili told AP. “The US is trying to deflect the blame.”

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Details from last Sunday’s withdrawal have trickled out during the past week, with Pentagon officials admitting that when the Iraqi army fled, they left behind half a dozen US-made tanks, the same number of artillery pieces, even more armored carriers, and over 100 wheeled vehicles, mostly Humvees.

With unnamed US sources telling the media that the government troops enjoyed a superiority of 10-to-1 over the Islamists, various narratives have been brewing about the causes of the defeat.

An initial slate of media reports blamed a sandstorm, which purportedly prevented the US from providing air support, and forced the Iraqis to re-locate to a safer position. However, logs showed that American planes, which have carried out close to 200 air strikes against IS in Iraq in the past month, continued to bomb enemy positions throughout last weekend’s battle, and the Pentagon denies that it was impeded by the weather.

More alarming analyses emerged later, suggesting that deep-lying sectarian divides could be behind the lack of desire to fight.

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“The Iraqi army is dominated by Shia, and they were fighting in a Sunni area – and they don’t want to get killed fighting to defend Sunnis,” Ivan Eland, a military analyst, told RT. Notably, Sunni tribesmen, on whom the US is increasingly relying to fend off IS, are also said to have refused to take up positions next to Shia fighters.

Despite US officials insisting that IS militants in Iraq are strategically in retreat, and emphasizing that the forces near Ramadi had never been directly trained by US instructors, Eland believes that little faith should be placed in pro-government forces.

“The root of the problem goes back to the US invasion, which dismembered the Iraqi army, which has never been the same since. Despite 8 years of US training, there is a lot of sectarianism and corruption.”

Meanwhile, other options remain off the table for US President Barack Obama, much to the chagrin of hawks, including current chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee John McCain, who have criticized the White House for its “constrained” intervention policy.

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McCain has recently mocked Obama for “saying that the biggest problem we have is climate change,” while there is “no strategy” in Washington to fight IS. The Republican Senator has even called for American boots to hit Iraqi ground while speaking on Memorial Day.

According to Eland, choices in Iraq are now “poor.”

“You need ground forces, and you need military advisers on the ground to launch the airstrikes. But the US doesn’t want to get involved. Meanwhile, bombing without forces on the ground is not that effective, and can even be counter-productive,” Eland stressed. He also argued that given the current state of affairs in the region, even professional Iraqi troops could end up engaging in sectarian warfare when they were not fighting IS.

Yet even in the face of what US officials have conceded is an “undeniable setback,” Carter tried to strike a positive note.

“We can’t make this [victory over IS] happen by ourselves, but we can assist it to happen, and we are counting on the Iraqi people to come behind a multi-sectarian government in Baghdad.”

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