plans to arm Iraq's Sunni tribesmen with AK-47s, RPGs, mortars
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[November 24, 2014]
By Phil Stewart
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States
plans to buy arms for Sunni tribesmen in Iraq including AK-47s,
rocket-propelled grenades and mortar rounds to help bolster the battle
against Islamic State militants in Anbar province, according to a
Pentagon document prepared for Congress.
The plan to spend $24.1 million represents a small fraction of the
larger, $1.6 billion spending request to Congress focusing on
training and arming Iraqi and Kurdish forces.
But the document underscored the importance the Pentagon places on
the Sunni tribesmen to its overall strategy to diminish Islamic
State, and cautioned Congress about the consequences of failing to
"Not arming tribal fighters will continue to leave anti-ISIL tribes
reluctant to actively counter ISIL," the document said, using
another acronym for the group which has seized control of large
parts of Syrian and Iraq and is gaining territory in Anbar despite
three months of U.S.-led air strikes.
A U.S. official said on Saturday that the document was posted this
week. Click http://1.usa.gov/11nsTuN to read it.
It said all U.S. support was directed "with, by and through" Iraq's
government, suggesting any weapons would be supplied through
Baghdad, in line with existing policy.
It noted Iraqi security forces were not "not particularly welcome in
Anbar and other majority Sunni areas," citing their poor combat
performance and sectarian divisions.
Iraq's army has been burdened by a legacy of sectarianism in Anbar,
whose dominant Sunni population resented former Prime Minister Nuri
al-Maliki's Shi'ite majority government and were incensed when he
ordered troops to clear a protest camp in Ramadi in December 2013.
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The ensuing Sunni tribal revolt prompted the entrance of Islamic
State into Falluja and Ramadi, where U.S. troops had met fierce
resistance from Sunni insurgents including al Qaeda during their
occupation of Iraq after the 2003 invasion that overthrew Saddam
The United States, which has deployed a small number of military
advisors to Anbar province, hopes the Sunni tribesmen can later form
part of a more formal Iraqi National Guard.
The Pentagon document also detailed $1.24 billion to be spent on
Iraqi forces and $354.8 million on Kurdish troops.
"While the trend on the battlefield has been promising in stemming
ISIL gains, Iraq lacks the training expertise and equipment to field
the forces needed to liberate territory," the document said.
(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Grant McCool)
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