Carter criticizes unwillingness of Iraqi forces to fight against ISIS

US Defense Secretary criticizes Iraqi security forces of showing ‘no will to fight’ against ISIS militants due to withdrawal from Ramadi

Photo by: AA
Photo by: AA

Updated Jul 28, 2015

The United States Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said on Sunday that the Iraqi security forces had showed ‘no will to fight’ against ISIS militant group and accused them of abandoning Ramadi to the militants.

The ISIS militants last week captured Ramadi, the main centre of Anbar province, which is strategically located near by the capital Baghdad and enables the militant groups to take the control of a huge area between Iraq’s northern Mosul province and northeast Syria.

"The Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight," Carter told CNN's State of the Union programme.

"They vastly outnumbered the opposing force, and yet they withdrew from the site," said Carter.

“I think to most of us, that we have an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight ISIS and defend themselves.”

Meanwhile, Iraqi forces captured some territory on Sunday from ISIS near Ramadi where the militants had gained the control last week.

Iraqi government forces backed by Shiite militias as well as locally-recruited and trained Sunni tribal fighters, have launched a counter-attack and regained ground against the militants on Saturday.

“Today we regained control over Husaiba and are laying plans to make more advances to push back Daesh fighters further," a local tribal leader Amir al-Fahdawi told Reuters.

"The morale of the (pro-government) fighters is high after the arrival of reinforcements and loads of ammunition," Fahdawi said.

Today's advance will speed up the clock for a major advance to regain control of Ramadi." he added.

The fall of Ramadi and the Syrian ancient city of Palmyra last week forced the US to change its strategy from a coalition-led air strikes to ground forces option.

The US has been seeking to embolden Iraqi security forces with a train and equip mission against the ISIS advancement towards Baghdad.

“We can give them training, we can give them equipment -- we obviously can't give them the will to fight. But if we give them training, we give them equipment, and give them support, and give them some time, I hope they will develop the will to fight, because only if they fight can ISIL remain defeated," Carter said.

“If there comes a time when we need to change the kinds of support we’re giving to the Iraqi forces, we’ll make the recommendation, but what happened at Ramadi was a failure of the Iraqi forces to fight,” he added.

The US State Department announced on Thursday it would send 2000 anti-tank weapons to Iraq to facilitate combatting with ISIS, which uses car bomb attacks to advance towards government-held areas as the militants recently appealed such methods to seize Ramadi.

The US has also approved the deployment of Hashd al Shaabi fighters to take back Ramadi from ISIS, despite lawmakers’ warnings of an increase sectarian violence due to the involvement of the Iranian-backed Shiite militias.

Officials said Washington was deeply divided about the involvement of Shiite militias with links to Iran that has been expanding its influence throughout the Middle East especially after the US withdrew from Iraq as of the end of 2011.  

Iran’s alleged roles in the conflicts of Iraq, Syria, and Yemen clinched its influence as Washington was trying to impose a nuclear deal on Tehran in order to dissuade Iran from its long-disputed nuclear programme.

Sunni politicians have accused the government of Prime Minister Abadi of failing to properly train and arm Sunni tribal forces to counter ISIS due to fears that the arms might be used later against Baghdad.

Although the idea of using Shiite militias in combatting against ISIS in a densely Sunni majority Anbar has raised fears of renewed sectarian violence, both local authorities in Anbar and the Iraqi central government seemed to have had no better option to deploy those fighters in the province.

ISIS killed up to 500 people, both Iraqi civilians and soldiers, and forced 8,000 to flee from their homes after they captured Ramadi, a provincial official told reporters.

The United Nations has said as many as 114,000 residents fled Ramadi, surrounding villages at the height of the violence created by ISIS.

TRTWorld and agencies