Forces on the ropes in Anbar hope talks will lead to more intelligence help and more arms from the United States.
DIWANIYAH, Iraq – The United States is shipping arms to Iraq to help its army fight a Sunni Islamist insurgency in Anbar province. But some Iraqi soldiers argue that basic planning and supplies are just as sorely needed.
Lt. Col. Ihab Hashem, a deputy army commander based at the 8th Division headquarters in this southern city, recounted a series of what he said were poorly planned and executed missions in Anbar, where the government is struggling to oust militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, an Al-Qaida splinter group.
Several ill-fated missions have characterized Iraq’s battles in Anbar and underscored the weakness of security forces that the United States spent $20 billion to train and equip.
In December, more than a dozen soldiers were killed in an ambush as they attempted to clear a training camp. That incident prompted Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to crack down on Sunnis who were protesting his Shiite government.
As the fight in Anbar has escalated, Washington has responded to pleas from the Iraqi government by stepping up deliveries of light arms, Hellfire missiles and surveillance drones to Baghdad. Iraq has also turned to its ally Iran for military support. Iran has signed a deal to sell Iraq ammunition and weapons worth $195 million. The State Department has said it is seeking clarification on the deal, which would breach U.N. sanctions on Iran.
Some observers say weapons should not be the priority.
“I can’t believe that after 10 years, the U.S. hasn’t given enough in small arms to arm the Iraqi armed forces twice over,” said a former U.S. senior adviser to the Iraqi armed forces. “What they need is training and intelligence.”
American training of Iraqi forces stopped when the U.S. military withdrew in 2011, but talks are underway to revive it.
Although the Iraqi armed forces have been more active in Ramadi, the Anbar city of Fallujah remains completely out of the state’s control nearly two months after being seized by the Islamist fighters.