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People's Daily Online

Pentagon chief blasts Iraqis for lacking 'will to fight' amidst hawks' call for U.S. troop surge

People's Daily Online

(Xinhua) 10:49, May 25, 2015

WASHINGTON, May 24 -- In a rare departure from the White House's reaffirmed support for the Iraqi government after occupation of the crucial Iraqi city Ramadi by the extremist group Islamic State (IS), U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Sunday blamed the Iraqis for lacking will to fight.

'They (Iraqi forces) were not outnumbered, but in fact they vastly outnumbered the opposing force, and yet they failed to fight. They withdrew from the site,' Carter told the U.S. TV networks CNN Sunday. 'What apparently happened was that the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight.'

IS fighters took full control of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, Iraq, a week ago after the Iraqi security forces withdrew from their positions, a provincial security source earlier told Xinhua, confirming reports that the Iraqi force chose to leave, rather than being driven out of the region.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Iraqi military units stationed in the Eighth Brigade headquarters north of Ramadi pulled out fully towards the 160 kilometer area west of Ramadi before IS fighters took control of the headquarters.

'We can give them training. We can give them equipment, (but) we obviously can't give them the will to fight,' said Carter. 'I hope they will develop the will to fight, because only if they fight can ISIL remain defeated.' ISIL is an alternative name for the extremist group of IS.

The Pentagon announced Thursday that the delivery of 2,000 anti- tank weapons would arrive in Iraq within days for fending off suicide car bombings by IS in the future.

Up to 30 suicide car bombs were set off by IS fighters in routing the Iraqi forces in Ramadi, said a senior State Department official who requested customary anonymity when his remarks were cited.

According to a Pentagon statement, since Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's visit to Washington in April, the U.S. military had already delivered to Baghdad 250 mine-resistant, ambush- protected (MRAP) vehicles, 2,000 Hellfire missiles, 10,000 sets of body armor and helmets, and millions of rounds of ammunition, including small arms, tank artillery and anti-tank weapons.

However, Pentagon officials confirmed earlier that a large portion of the U.S.-supplied military equipment were abandoned in Ramadi.

Pentagon spokesman Army Colonel Steve Warren told reporters Tuesday that about a half dozen tanks, a similar number of artillery pieces, a larger number of armored personnel carrier together with roughly 100 wheeled vehicles like Humvees were abandoned when Iraqi forces left Ramadi.

When asked whether the Iraqis should have destroyed the equipment before leaving the city, Warren said it was 'certainly preferable' to destroy those vehicles and equipment to keep them from enhancing IS's fighting capability.

U.S. President Barack Obama's anti-IS strategy came under scrutiny after the fall of Ramadi. As vital parts of Obama administration's strategy, instead of sending large-scale ground troops to confront IS fighters, the United States has since last summer been leading a coalition force to conduct air raids while offering support to local forces fighting ISIL on the ground.

After attacking Obama's 'flawed strategy' in Iraq for a whole week, Republican Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, again on Memorial Day weekend blasted Obama for pulling troops from Iraq.

'Anybody who says we couldn't have stayed is not telling the truth,' McCain told the U.S. TV network CBS News Sunday. 'We could have a residual force or a sustaining force.'

What McCain referred to was Obama administration's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011. Since then, Obama has refused to send ground troops in the region to fight IS.

'We need more troops on the ground. We need forward air controllers,' said McCain, adding that what he wanted was not 'the massive 82nd Airborne' but a number of thousands soldiers on the ground.

Despite recent occupation of Iraqi and Syrian cities by IS fighters, little indication showed that the White House would soon budge on its stance of ruling out massive military deployment.

'I say it with full confidence, (that) the president will not be comfortable with the full-scale reinvasion of Iraq by the United States military,' said the White House spokesman Josh Earnest Thursday during the daily news briefing. 'That is a strategy that did not serve the long-term interests of the United States.'

'What the president believes (that) serves the long-term interests of the United States is building up the capacity of fighters on the ground inside of Iraq who are willing to fight for their own country,' he added.

However, during his interview Sunday, Carter apparently left all options on the table.

'If there comes a time when we need to change the kinds of support we're giving to the Iraqi forces, we'll make that recommendation,' he said.

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