Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter, has blasted the Iraqi military in an interview with CNN, saying that they showed “no will to fight” ISIS in the Battle of Ramadi. The battle is thought of as being of major significance due to the city’s proximity to Baghdad, just 63 miles away. Carter told CNN that the Iraqi forces had a large numbers advantage, but that despite this, they still fled, showing a major lack of will.
“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, and 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.”
Iraqi MP Hakim al-Zamili, head of the Iraqi defense and security committee, criticized Carter’s remarks in an interview with the Associated Press. Zamili called Carter’s remarks “baseless,” and blamed the U.S. for not providing enough equipment.
“The Iraqi army and police did have the will to fight IS group in Ramadi, but these forces lack good equipment, weapons and aerial support. The U.S. officials should provide Iraq with advanced weapons as soon as possible instead of making such statements.”
The BBC reports that following the fall of Ramadi, 3000 Shia militamen are awaiting the order to attack at the Habbaniyah military base, east of the city. In response, ISIS has laid mines and entrenched themselves in the city, waiting for the counterattack. Following the fall of Tikrit, it was reported that there were up to 10,000 IEDs present in the city, a matter of grave humanitarian importance in itself.
CNN report that alongside calls for more U.S. boots on the ground, there have been recommendations that forward air controllers should be deployed, who would spot targets for airstrikes. Carter said that while such options could be necessary in future, he’s not ready to recommend such action now.
“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. But what happened in Ramadi was a failure of the Iraqi forces to fight.”
The Iraqi army’s retreat also allowed ISIS to capture more American equipment, The Guardian reports. Tanks, artillery, and armored personnel carriers have been captured, as well as around 100 other vehicles, giving a boost to ISIS’ capabilities in the area.
ISIS have been tightening their grip of fear on Ramadi since capturing the city, with executions on the street being carried out, according the McClatchy report. On the other side of ISIS territory, Syrian State TV have reported around 400 people have been massacred in Palmyra, another newly-captured city, according to The Independent. ISIS have even boasted that they are infinitely closer to obtaining nuclear weapons.
Can the Iraqi forces stop ISIS? Should more American troops be deployed?
[Photos by John Moore/Getty Images and Olivier Douliery/Getty Images]