Sunday, May 24, 2015

Islamic State captures many US-provided weapons and equipment as it retakes Ramadi

Iraqi troops retreating from Ramadi last Sunday left behind many U.S.-provided vehicles, including tanks, armoured personnel carriers and artillery for ISIS fighters.
Colonel Steve Warren, a spokesperson for the Pentagon, estimated that IS captured about a half dozen tanks, about the same number of artillery but almost 100 wheeled vehicles such as Humvees and a number of armored personnel carriers. Warren noted while some vehicles were operational, others were not as they had not been moved for months.
The capture of Ramadi is the worst defeat for central government forces since the IS offensive began last June. Apparently several hundred Iraqi soldiers were left in one area of Ramadi surrounded by IS fighters. Reinforcements had been trying to reach Ramadi but were kept away by fierce IS resistance. All contact with the Anbar Operations Center in the area where the soldiers were was cut off and IS later claimed they had overrun the center.
The retreat in Ramadi, follows a pattern that happened earlier in a number of places in which equipment is left behind when Iraqi forces retreat, to be destroyed by U.S.-led air strikes later. When Warren was asked if the vehicles should have been destroyed before the retreat, he said that was preferable but was not done in this case. While Warren was confident that Ramadi would be retaken he said it could be a difficult battle.
Derek Harvey, a retired colonel and former Defense Intelligence officer said of the Islamic State: "They are adaptive and they remain well-armed and well-resourced. The different lines of operation by the U.S. coalition remain disjointed, poorly resourced and lack an effective operational framework, in my view."
Given the difficulties in recovering territory from ISIS, some U.S. officials have suggested containment might be an alternative strategy. However, at the present time this is not being discussed. General Martin Dempsey, chair of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff said of Ramadi: "Setbacks are regrettable but not uncommon in warfare. Much effort will now be required to reclaim the city." The U.S. remains adamant that it will not commit substantial numbers of ground troops to the fight against the Islamic State although it is clear that there are a number of advisers, trainers, and special forces in both Iraq and Syria. Pentagon officials were quick to claim that the Ramadi defeat did not show any fatal weakness in the U.S. strategy but was just part of the inevitable "ebb and flow" of warfare. In some areas the Islamic State has lost ground. Tikrit was recaptured recently. However, the town of Baghdadi north of Ramadi is also reported to be surrounded by IS fighters and could also be captured without outside help.


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