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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

IS Boosts Forces in Ramadi

by VOA News May 25, 2015

Islamic State is fortifying its ranks in the Iraqi city of Ramadi as military and paramilitary forces plan a counteroffensive to push back the frontline in Anbar province.

The U.S.-led coalition scaled back airstrikes on Ramadi overnight, focusing much of its 25 strikes in Iraq on the IS stronghold of Mosul, and the town of Baghdadi. An additional 10 strikes targeted IS positions in Syria.

​​An Alhurra journalist in Iraq told VOA on Sunday that IS fighters have surrounded Baghdadi and Haditha, which are west of Ramadi on the highway toward Syria.

In an interview made public on Monday, Haider al-Abadi told the BBC the city of Ramadi would be retaken from the Islamic State militants in the coming days, not weeks. The Iraqi leader admitted the insurgent group overran military forces in a stunning retreat that prompted U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter on Sunday to question what he called the 'will' of Iraq to defeat Islamic State.

But al-Abadi expressed confidence in his country's ability to push back the newest front line in the conflict.

'It will be within days, I can assure you... (Islamic State) won this battle. It doesn't mean they're winning,' he said in the interview.

He also addressed security concerns for the capital, where Alhurra journalists told VOA security forces are on high alert after the advances of IS militants just 120 kilometers to the west.

As tens of thousands of Ramadi refugees fled toward Baghdad, the government curbed the number allowed in, citing fears that militants could infiltrate the city and weaken it from within. Al-Abadi told the BBC that was the technique Islamic State used to seize Ramadi.

US questions will of Iraqi forces

Senior U.S. officials on Sunday questioned the will of Iraqi forces in the ongoing battle against Islamic State militants, drawing a sharp response from Baghdad and fresh criticism in Washington about President Barack Obama's strategy to defeat the group.

'What apparently happened is the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight. They were not outnumbered,' Carter said. 'In fact, they vastly outnumbered the opposing force. That says to me, and I think to most of us, that we have an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight ISIL and defend themselves.'

​​National Security Advisor Susan Rice echoed Carter's concerns in an interview on CBS.

'Iraqi security forces face their own internal challenges... It's an uneven force in terms of will, equipment and leadership,' Rice said, adding that the United States is working with them to address what she categorized as 'weaknesses.'

Shortly after the interviews aired, the head of the Iraqi parliament's defense and security committee, Hakim al-Zamili, told the Associated Press that Carter's comments are 'unrealistic and baseless.' He said the United States is trying to shift blame to Iraq for Washington's failure to provide 'good equipment, weapons and aerial support' to Iraqi forces.

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