Defense Secretary Ash Carter has responded to the recent routing the Sunni forces in Iraq and Syria received from ISIS terrorists, and announced a new campaign to equip and train the friendly fighters a lot faster.
“I think one particular way that’s extremely important is to involve the Sunni tribes in the fight,” Carter said, according to the Hill. “That means training and equipping them. So those are the kinds of things that the team … is looking at.”
The Pentagon’s presently giving Sunni fighters equipment through the Shia-dominated central government in Iraq. But Sunnis say they’ve not received everything.
“The events of recent weeks there have highlighted the central importance of having a capable ground partner,” Carter said, the Hill reported. “And that’s what the purpose of our train-and-equip program is. I can’t describe to you what the possibilities are because folks are looking at them right now.”
Carter said Secretary of State John Kerry is taking a deeper look at the politics of the situation and assessing ways to help.
“So we can try to, across the political side and the, the military side, do everything we can to think of to increase the effectiveness of the campaign,” Carter said.
Meanwhile, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren clarified the announcement was not a change in “strategy” but rather “tactics,” the Hill reported.
Regardless, the military shift comes as Iraqi government and Sunni fighters fled Ramadi in the face of ISIS terrorists, despite having the majority of members. The White House tried to downplay the ISIS conquest, suggesting even that a wind storm contributed to the Iraqi loss. Carter, shortly after, took to national television and decried the Iraqis’ “will to fight,” a statement that led to a sharp rebuke from Baghdad officials.
Vice president Joe Biden apologized to Iraqi officials, and Carter came out and took partial blame for the fall of Ramadi.
“I think training and equipment affect the effectiveness of the forces and therefore their ability to operate, their confidence and their ability to operate,” he said. “So there’s a direct relationship.”