Interviewed on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, impugned the bravery of Iraqi troops. While is statement was true, it was not the most diplomatic comment, bringing rebuke from the Iraqi prime minister and a phone call from V.P. Biden to smooth out the hurt Iraqi feelings.
Carter’s comments made after the fall of Ramadi to the ISIS terrorist vented the White House frustration with the Iraqi military,
“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.”
The BBC reported the reaction from the Iraqis to the Carter comments
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told the BBC’s John Simpson he was “surprised” at the comments. “[Mr Carter] was very supportive of Iraq and I am sure he was fed with the wrong information,” he said.
Mr Abadi also insisted Ramadi could be taken back “in days”.
Hakim al-Zamili, the head of Iraq’s parliamentary defence and security committee, was more critical of Mr Carter.
Mr Zamili told Associated Press the US had failed to provide “good equipment, weapons and aerial support” at Ramadi and was seeking to “throw the blame on somebody else”.
Actually it is al-Zamili “blaming someone else,” ultimately it Is Iraq’s fight, although it is also true that the U.S. support is has not been as helpful as it could be.
But good ole Joe Biden called the Iraqi Prime Minister to smooth things out:
Biden “recognized the enormous sacrifice and bravery of Iraqi forces over the past eighteen months in Ramadi and elsewhere,” the White House said.
As well as rowing back Carter’s comments, Biden called to “reaffirm US support for the Iraqi government’s fight against” Islamic State jihadists.
Carter’s comments were seen as undercutting a US-Iraqi collective front in the fight against the radical militants.
They were also seen as humiliating for Iraq’s prime minister, as he desperately tries to hold his country together with a thinly stretched army and assorted ethnic and sectarian militias whose loyalties lie outside Baghdad.
The real issue is not some undiplomatic comments by the secretary of defense, the real issue is if President Obama does not want to fight to win, should our troops be involved at all?
In the wake of ISIS advances, some — including Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain –have called for more American forces on the ground in Iraq. Currently, there are about 3,000 U.S. military personnel training Iraqi forces, but they are not near combat areas.
Some experts have called for putting some American forward air controllers who would be near the fighting to help better pinpoint the targets for coalition airstrikes. Carter told CNN he has not forwarded a recommendation for them to the White House.
According to McCain 75% of the American planes return to base without dropping their bombs. And it’s not just McCain, Defense Secretary Robert Gates also advocated sending forward air controllers, speaking last Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“Sending large numbers of U.S. ground troops back into Iraq would be a serious mistake,” he said. “But I do believe that the rules of engagement for our troops need to be more flexible. We need to have more deeply embedded trainers with the Iraqi, Kurdish, the Iraqi security forces, the Sunni tribes with the Kurds in the north. I think we need to have forward air controllers and spotters. We need to have special forces in there.”
Considering the importance of defeating ISIS and the desire to do it without a “full scale ground operation,” it seems imperative for the president to follow the advice of many and provide those forward air controllers so our planes can better target the Iraqi troops. If he has no intention of doing that, Obama should bring all of our troops home. It makes no sense to send people into a war zone where we have no intention of winning.