Carter: US military can’t find enough ‘capable, motivated’ Iraqis to train against ISIS

Reuters / Parwiz Parwiz

Reuters / Parwiz Parwiz

US Defense Secretary Ash Carter has admitted to Congress that the Pentagon has not been able to find enough “legitimate” Iraqi recruits to fight off Islamic State extremists.

So far, the US military has trained some 9,000 Iraqi soldiers –
far short of its 24,000 goal, Carter said.

Appearing before Congress on Wednesday, Carter said that efforts
to train “capable, motivated, legitimate ground forces in Iraq
and Syria” in order “to seize, clear, and hold” terrain from
Islamic State (formerly ISIS/ISIL) has proven difficult.

“Our training efforts have been slowed in Iraq by a lack of
trainees. We simply haven’t received enough recruits. Of the
24,000 Iraqi security forces we originally envisioned training at
our four sites by this fall, we’ve only received enough recruits
to train about 7,000 in addition to 2,000 counter-terrorism
service personnel,”
Carter said.

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He has insisted that only “motivated” Iraqi soldiers can ensure
the defeat of the terrorist group, not American boots on the

“Putting US combat troops on the ground as a substitute for
local forces will not produce enduring results,”

The anti-Islamic State coalition’s bombing campaign has produced
results in “limiting ISIL’s movement, constraining its
ability to reinforce its fighters and impeding its command and
Carter said. However, those efforts were chiefly
designed to buy time and space to carry out the recruitment
efforts and develop legitimate fighters, which is “a work in
he added.

Islamic State forces still hold the city of Mosul, while last
month its fighters took Ramadi, a provincial capital west of
Baghdad, without a fight, despite being outnumbered more than 10
to 1.

Carter said after Mosul fell last June, Iraqi security forces
were severely degraded, with four divisions dissolved from a
combination of “disunity, deserters and so-called ghost
soldiers, who were paid on the books but didn’t show or didn’t
That greatly diminished local forces’ capacity, and
then Ramadi fell, he said.

“What we saw in Ramadi last month was deeply disappointing –
and illustrates the importance of a capable and motivated Iraqi
ground force,”
Carter told Congress.

That failure prompted President Barack Obama to send an
additional 450 US soldiers to a base in Iraq’s Anbar province,
and to step up efforts to recruit and train Sunni soldiers, who
are underrepresented in the Iraqi army.

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In Syria, Carter thinks the situation is even more complex
because of the lack of a “legitimate government partner”
and competing forces. He said the US will continue launching
airstrikes on Syrian territory, working with Syria’s neighbors to
stop the flow of foreign fighters into the region.

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), who chairs the House Armed
Services Committee, blasted the Obama administration for a failed
six-year-long strategy to secure the Middle East, riven by failed
and failing states.

No strategy coming from the White House will “change that
Thornberry said.

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the ranking member of the committee,
acknowledged the problem posed by Islamic State but said
deepening the US commitment there without a reliable partner in
Iraq would be useless.

Carter ended his testimony to Congress by saying: “It will
take time.”

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