‘We pledge full US support’: Biden backpedals after US slights Iraqi army

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (Reuters/Yuri Gripas)
A day after the US Defense Secretary questioned the Iraqi army’s “will to fight” Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) jihadists, Vice President Joe Biden called Iraqi PM Haider Abadi to reassure him of continued American support in the fight against IS.

“The Vice President recognized the enormous sacrifice and bravery of Iraqi forces over the past eighteen months in Ramadi and elsewhere,” said a transcript of the call posted on the White House website.

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“The Vice President pledged full US support in these and other Iraqi efforts to liberate territory from ISIL, including the expedited provision of US training and equipment to address the threat posed by ISIL’s use of truck bombs.”

Despite outnumbering ISIS fighters 10-to-1 the Iraqi army hastily withdrew from the key city of Ramadi on May 17, leaving behind tens of tracked vehicles, including battle tanks, and more than 100 wheeled vehicles, such as Humvees.

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,” said Defense Secretary Ash Carter on CNN on Sunday, following a week of recriminations from other US officials.

“We can give them training, we can give them equipment – we obviously can’t give them the will to fight,” he stated.

Abadi quickly dismissed Carter’s statement on Monday.

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“Mr. Carter was very supportive of Iraq and I am sure he was fed with the wrong information,” he told BBC.

“They have the will to fight but when they are faced with an onslaught by Islamic State fighters from nowhere... with armored trucks packed with explosives, the effect of them is like a small nuclear bomb – it has a very very bad effect on our forces.”

Abadi then promised to recapture Ramadi “in days.”

As well as acknowledging the challenges posed by truck bombs, Biden “welcomed the Council of Minister’s unanimous decision on May 19th to mobilize additional troops, honor those who have fallen, and prepare for counter-attack operations.”

While the jihadi fighters were reinforcing the provincial capital in anticipation of a counter-attack by security forces, Iraqi troops managed to regain some ground east and south of Ramadi on Monday.