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US presses Baghdad for 'greater commitment' against IS

June 18, 2015

Pentagon chief Ashton Carter has warned that the US will fall short its goals in training soldiers to fight "Islamic State" (IS). During a congressional hearing, Carter called on Baghdad to send more recruits.

USA Verteidigungsminister Ash Carter
Image: picture-alliance/AP/M. Balce Ceneta

The United States had hoped to train 24,000 Iraqi troops by this fall, but only received some 9,000 recruits so far, Defense Secretary Carter said Wednesday.

"We simply haven't received enough recruits," Carter told a Congress Armed Services committee.

"As I've told Iraqi leaders, while the United States is open to supporting Iraq more than we already are, we must see a greater commitment from all parts of the Iraqi government," Carter said.

The Iraqi army, which had been trained and equipped by the US, has suffered several bitter defeats at the hands of IS, the most devastating being the loss of Mosul a year ago.

Another blow to morale came last month, when IS fighters pushed the Baghdad forces out of the key strategic city of Ramadi. The fall of Ramadi provoked a controversial comment from Carter himself, who said the Iraqi forces lacked "the will to fight."

The "IS" advance also raised doubts over the central government's capability to present a united front, bridging deep divides between Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish groups.

With Kurdish and Sunni tribal militias are already engaged in the anti-IS offensive, Washington intends to boost the training of Sunni fighters.

US soldiers to stay out of combat

Neither Carter nor General Martin Dempsey, who is chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ruled out increasing US troop support for Iraq. However, General Dempsey advised against the strategy of putting a small number of American troops into combat, which was proposed by some Obama critics.

"I would not recommend that we put US forces in harm's way simply to stiffen the spine of local forces," he said.

"If their spine is not stiffened by the threat of ISIL on their way of life, nothing we do is going to stiffen their spine," Dempsey using another acronym for "IS".

More trainers deployed

The US military is directly involved in the war against IS by conducting airstrikes against the terror group in Syria and Iraq. However, Washington officially pulled out of Iraq in 2011, confining the remaining force to non-combat roles.

With IS pushing ahead, President Obama has been facing a growing pressure to increase US involvement in the war. Last week, Obama ordered 450 more US soldiers to set up a training base near Ramadi, bringing to total number of American troops to over 3,500.

dj/bw (Reuters, AFP, AP)