In an interview Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said that the Iraqi military lacked the “will to fight” the resurgent Islamic State, demonstrated by the loss of Ramadi to militant forces last week.
“What apparently happened is the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight,” Carter said. “They were not outnumbered; 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.”
Hakim al-Zamili, head of the Iraqi parliament’s defense and security committee and member of what the Associated Press describes as a “deeply anti-American” Shiite faction, told the AP that Carter’s comments were “unrealistic and baseless.” “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,” he said.
The Iraqis left behind a large amount of U.S.-supplied equipment. “The ISF was not driven out of Ramadi,” Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said last week. “They drove out of Ramadi.”
“If there comes a time when we have to change the kinds of support we give, we will make that recommendation,” Carter said on Sunday. “But what happened in Ramadi was a failure of the Iraqi forces to fight, and so our efforts now are devoted to providing their ground forces with the equipment, the training, and encouraging their will to fight so that our campaign enabling them can be successful—both in defeating ISIL and keeping ISIL defeated in a sustained way.”
“I thought they had lost the capability to do what they just did,” Jessica Lewis McFate of the Institute for the Study of War, a D.C. research organization that has advocated for a more bellicose posture from the United States towards ISIS, told the New York Times. “The tide of the war really looked like it had shifted away from ISIS’s terms.”
“Ramadi was a bigger loss for us,” McFate said, “than Tikrit was a loss to ISIS.”