U.S. Blames Ramadi on Iraqi Forces

U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter says the Iraqi Forces are to blame for ISIS' recent takeover of Ramadi. He says they lack the will the fight.

They were not outnumbered. In fact, they vastly outnumbered the opposing force and yet they failed to fight and withdrew from the site,” he said. “That says to me and, I think, to most of us, that we have an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight ISIL and defend themselves.”


Is a strategy shift underway?

“If there comes a time when we have to change the kinds of support we give, we will make that recommendation,” Mr. Carter said. “But what happened in Ramadi was a failure of the Iraqi forces to fight, and so our efforts now are devoted to providing their ground forces with the equipment, the training, and encouraging their will to fight so that our campaign enabling them can be successful — both in defeating ISIL and keeping ISIL defeated in a sustained way.”

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    ... fall of Saigon and the end of the Vietnam War. When the U.S. military departed South Vietnam in 1973, that country was left equipped with the fourth largest standing ground and air forces in the entire world. The South Vietnamese nevertheless collapsed within 27 months' time, for much the very same reasons offered by Ashton Carter about the Iraqi forces.

    When one side is completely demoralized while the other possesses strength of determination and will, the resultant and respective emotional / mental dispositions of the combatants will more often than not dictate the ultimate course of battle and conflict, far more so than any preponderance of technology and equipment in the field on one side or the other.

    Unless we can either convince our Arab allies that this is actually their fight more than ours, and / or make peace with Iran and work in concert with Iranian forces to counter ISIS / ISIL, it's time to pull the plug on Iraq and develop a comprehensive strategy of containment for that self-styled caliphate, rather than seek its annihilation either directly or by proxy.


    That's just it (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by Militarytracy on Sun May 24, 2015 at 06:08:16 PM EST
    That is what our Peesident is convincing them of.  And Iraq needs to answer the question about why their forces lack the will to defend the sovereignty of Iraq.  I think the answer is multi pronged.  Iraq has left their troops unpaid for as long as six months and there is no hope of equal protection and opportunity in Iraq.  Perhaps it is time for Iraq to split into the three nations it really is.  There will probably be wars over the oil fields then, such is life.

    Even if Sunnis hadn't been demoralized by the existing Shia Iraq government, I'm not convinced there still wouldn't be a sectarian war underway immediately after the disruption of the existing power infrastructure.  I think that was probably a given no matter what the hell anyone did because neither Saudi Arabia or Iran was just going to sit there, Iraq is a buffer property between the two enemies.


    Split into 3 nations (none / 0) (#5)
    by christinep on Sun May 24, 2015 at 06:39:41 PM EST
    A split may be inevitable IF the Sunni portion does not take hold.  VP Biden spotted that potential solution early on.  My only question there: What should be the standard or touchstone for determining that that is the preferred solution?  And, while outside powers principally imposed the first solution of a unified nation-state, should outside forces be the decider this time as well.

    It is somewhat depressing--the staying power (so far) of ISIS.) Yet, the school of thought that things must resolve soon if not yesterday seems unrealistic in a region beset by strife for years. What I'm wondering is what "containment" or some relative of that strategy would look like?  It is one thing to insist on the boots-on-the-ground of the impatient Lindsay G variety ... and it is also another kind of abnegation thing in an explosive area to ignore anything that is too troubling ... but, given our history with expansive forerunners like the USSR, I'm wondering what lesson we can take from that and what ameliorative steps might be rational???

    Thinking, rather than jumping; scoping a full range or options rather than either-or; and, choosing an approach do seem key.  In that process, better communication at all levels has got to occur.  I'm sure that you will understand, MT, when I say that:  Bush was all about bravado (and that was a military mess and humane disaster); and, now, Obama may be taking the taciturn tactic & reaction to a frustrating level.  IMO, the communication of our approach--containment or whatever--has to be honed and stepped up.  Defense Secretary Ash Carter made a clear and compelling statement, for starters, when he stated today on CNN that we cannot substitute for the Iraqis in their fight to protect their land.


    JSOC has been in Baghdad for over a year and (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by Militarytracy on Sun May 24, 2015 at 07:28:19 PM EST
    A half now, so I don't see that the President is taking any different tack.  He has been present in the background with what really is a fearsome force and he is collecting intel constantly and making no move that saves anyone from experiencing the consequences of their actions. I have always known he had special operations boots on the ground.  We all have.  I don't see that he is offering to rescue Ramadi, what I see is that now we are going to have a discussion about how and why ISIS now claims Ramadi.

    Ramadi is a very large city, so it is hard for me to consider the whole of Ramadi belonging to ISIS in a very meaningful long term way.  Their claim is only shock troops short term. If ISIS thinks they can rule Ramadi with a caliphate iron fist they have another think coming, you know....that hearts and minds stuff.

    If Obama really wanted ISIS gone from Ramadi, it would be done, at the expense of our blood and our treasure.  He has the troops in Kuwait to do that.  This isn't his problem though and he knows it.  He isn't going to send regular troops into Anbar ever again.  He's not stupid.  If the powers that be are willing to evolve and grow up, he might have some assistance for them.  If they can't get their $hit together, he's content to watch and collect intel until the powers coming begging...then there are terms.

    As for Iraq splitting, why should anyone at this point do anything other than allow the inevitable to make its approach?


    Thank you, MT (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by christinep on Sun May 24, 2015 at 07:36:20 PM EST
    I find your explanation here more helpful than all the other semi-talk so far.  Your background is central to making sense of this maze.

    I think (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by FlJoe on Mon May 25, 2015 at 08:42:35 AM EST
    Americans, thanks to media and our hysterical leaders, do not even have a clue about the real situation. The headline "ISIS takes Ramadi" should read "Iraqi army abandons Ramadi", ISIS is just the tip of the spear of a very large Sunni insurgency  stretching from Baghdad to Damascus, predictable and really inevitable.

    We are painted a picture of ISIS through the lens of their own propaganda machine. Brutal religious end time zealots taking over the Levant with the Sword of Islam.  Grisly comic book stuff really.

    The reality of course is way more complex. I seriously doubt that the military leaders, mostly Saddam era officers, believe much if any that religious dogma, even if they do cynically exploit it. Likewise the dis-enfranchised foot soldiers and bureaucrats that they hire.

    Ramadi is a very large city, so it is hard for me to consider the whole of Ramadi belonging to ISIS in a very meaningful long term way
    You are correct, but "belonging" is pretty much meaningless in context. I see this more as a "Sunni Awakening" where ISIS pays the  tribal leaders to hire the locals as soldiers, police and yes tax collectors. Just put the ISIS decal on the police cars hoist the flag and mail the taxes collected to ISIS instead of the Shia dogs in Baghdad. From the Sunni side of the street it's almost a no brainer.

    What really astounds me is the utter stupidity of anyone who thinks that we should or could make a difference in an epic, centuries old religious war. Especially when history both ancient and immediate is slapping us in the face shouting no.


    I see where you are coming from (none / 0) (#14)
    by Militarytracy on Mon May 25, 2015 at 09:29:25 AM EST
    With ISIS hiring Sunnis.  I don't think Ramadi is going to go along with ISIS though hired or unhired because Sunnis of the Anbar region have allowed moderates for too long in their population. They ruled the region once, they were raised differently, they didn't have to practice their faith iron fisted.  I see Ramadi being enveloped in a Sunni civil war, moderates fighting extremists.

    Not that the Republican base knows anything (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by Militarytracy on Sun May 24, 2015 at 07:37:05 PM EST
    About patience or detente.  And I'm disappointed in all the journalists at this point just chucking red meat out to the mobs.  The greatest generation knew something about patience and detente, the rest of us not so much, Fox News watchers not at all.

    There seems to be such a spoilt American child mentality (I want what I want NOW) ruling the discussion that journalists want to have right now concerning ISIS and Iraq.


    Hammer meet nail. (none / 0) (#9)
    by Sean Robertson on Sun May 24, 2015 at 08:11:49 PM EST
    Thank you - you hit the nail squarely on the head. It should be noted as well that a big part of why we got our asses handed to us in Vietnam was that the local populace had little to no interest in our mission. All they wanted was the right to self-determination. Our propping up of an out of touch asshole in the south obviously didn't help either (there's a parallel to that in both Iraq and Afghanistan, BTW).

    As far as I'm concerned, cut our defense spending in half, and split the savings evenly between domestic spending on education, healthcare and a basic minimum income, and the other half on diplomatic and social programs abroad designed to encourage democratic institutions. There is much more to be gained by empowering people than by dropping bombs on them.


    Goals in Iraq/Syria (none / 0) (#3)
    by Green26 on Sun May 24, 2015 at 06:21:23 PM EST
    While helping Iraq and Syria to some extent are worthy goals, my primary goals have evolved more to figuring out a bigger picture strategy: to protect US/Western interests in the Middle East; to deal with ISIS and similar groups generally; to avoid leaving/allowing a huge territory for groups with considerable finances who can plot against US/Western interests (like Afghanistan was in the 90's); and to help important Middle Eastern allies and friends. The Middle East is too important to be neglected and left alone, in my view. There are also large humanitarian concerns in the region.

    "my... goals... bigger picture strategy" (5.00 / 2) (#11)
    by Mr Natural on Sun May 24, 2015 at 08:26:14 PM EST
    Uh, dude, you're on a blog.

    You sound like a Centcom shill. (5.00 / 2) (#12)
    by desertswine on Sun May 24, 2015 at 11:48:47 PM EST
    None of your "concerns" (none / 0) (#21)
    by Militarytracy on Tue May 26, 2015 at 06:52:04 PM EST
    Are being ignored, you are simply and falsely trying to project a sort of existing negligence that doesn't exist.

    I detect a problem (none / 0) (#4)
    by KeysDan on Sun May 24, 2015 at 06:33:50 PM EST
    in Carter's analysis (and his straightforwardness): :   "we will provide more equipment, training, and encourage their will to fight so that our campaign enabling them can be successful, "

     So, the remedy is to provide more equipment (to be abandoned as the Iraqi troops flee), more training (aka, US Special OPs troops on the ground as front-line combat 'advisers'), US spotters on the front for the airstrikes, and sheets of plywood to insert into the back of the Iraqi troops's uniforms to stiffen them up and provide "will."  

    All of this is so that "our campaign" (not this is truthful, what about theirs) is successful.  Lot's of luck on that one, particularly in sustainability.   I think the bottom line is that there are more US combat troops in our future.   The companion will be to continue to try to persuade the Shia Iraqi government to arm the Sunni tribal fighters.  Also, more luck will be needed with that one.

    "our campaign" (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by Sean Robertson on Sun May 24, 2015 at 08:16:59 PM EST
    Bingo. How about what they want? We never thought about that when we went in or we would've realized this was going to be an unmitigated disaster. I called this out back in early '03. Ugh. They may have wanted rid of Saddam but very likely not for the reasons that any of us did, especially among the more militant factions we're now seeing. :-(

    Stalin--no, Saddam (none / 0) (#15)
    by thomas rogan on Tue May 26, 2015 at 07:21:23 AM EST
    Next people here will say that if we had left Saddam in power his disciplined troops would have fought much more effectively.  Might as well prop up dictators; the Kissinger view of the world.

    What do you think (none / 0) (#16)
    by Mordiggian 88 on Tue May 26, 2015 at 08:12:47 AM EST
    the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is, a constutitional monarchy?  We still support dictators around the world.  to suggest that we've stopped doing so is perhaps the worse kind of revisionism in regards to post-9/11 history.

    But, then, you don't seem to understand the relationship between the toppling of Saddam, the dissolution of the Iraqi Arny, and the subsequent rise of ISIS.

    You can learn about it here.  A small excerpt :

    De-Ba'athification and Disbanding Saddam's Army

    As we'll see below, from the beginning high-ranking officers from Saddam's military and officials of his Ba'ath party have played critical leadership roles in the military and economic operations of ISIS. But that's not because, as President Bush claimed in 2004, they "should have surrendered or been done in." Instead, it is in large part due to the very reason Ivy Ziedrich gave Jeb Bush: the 2003 decision to disband the Iraqi army and "de-Ba'athify" the Iraqi government. And those catastrophic decisions by Coalition Provisional Authority's  L. Paul Bremer were blessed by President Bush.

    Using letters provided by Bremer, the New York Times in 2007 documented that President Bush indeed casually approved Bremer's May 2003 plan to disband the Iraqi military. Bremer released both his May 22, 2003, letter detailing his plans and progress on de-Ba'athification and the dissolution of Saddam's army, as well as President Bush's May 23 response.

    In his May 22 letter, Bremer informed Bush that:
    "We must make it clear to everyone that we mean business: that Saddam and the Baathists are finished...I will parallel this step [de-Baathification] with an even more robust measure dissolving Saddam's military and intelligence structures to emphasize that we mean business."
    In his shockingly brief May 23 response, Bush nonchalantly blesses Bremer's fateful step to dissolve the Iraqi military:
    "Your leadership is apparent. You have quickly made a positive and significant impact. You have my full support and confidence. You also have the backing of our Administration that knows our work will take time."
    President Bush must have been pleased with Bremer's work. In December 2004, Bush rewarded him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
    Three years later in 2007, an unfazed Bush told biographer Robert Draper, "The policy was to keep the army intact; didn't happen," and "Yeah, I can't remember, I'm sure I said, 'This is the policy, what happened?'"

    What happened is that the tens of thousands of now unemployed and very unhappy Iraqi soldiers formed the basis for the insurgency the killed and maimed thousands of American soldiers. Nevertheless, in response to the growing bloodbath and chaos his decisions unleashed, President Bush in August 2004 had a novel explanation for the carnage in Iraq:

    "Had we had to do it [the invasion of Iraq] over again, we would look at the consequences of catastrophic success - being so successful so fast that an enemy that should have surrendered or been done in escaped and lived to fight another day."

    Read the whole thing and learn from it, if you can.


    Your point has been belabored time and again (none / 0) (#17)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue May 26, 2015 at 08:34:14 AM EST
    and I have no real problem with it.

    But politics entered in. You won't admit it but you would have screamed if we had done that.

    I mean even Patton ran afoul of the press when he wanted to use former low level Nazis to keep the new government stable.

    And, of course, we have no way of knowing if it would have worked beyond its use as claims by the anti-war people as another tool to attack Bush.

    The truth of the matter is that we did what we did. The war was won and the country stable until we elected Obama and the various radical islamist groups understood that he would left them essentially run free.

    And no, an occasional drone attack or special forces operation will do nothing but kill a few people without altering the outcome.

    Obama cut and ran. And he has told the world that is what he wanted to do and all the SOFA blathering doesn't change the fact that we could have stayed long enough for Iraq to sort its problems out and become a stable democracy.

    But we didn't. And sooner or later we will have to go back in and do it all over again.


    The whole (5.00 / 4) (#19)
    by FlJoe on Tue May 26, 2015 at 10:08:48 AM EST
    concept of win/loss is almost meaningless in the context of Bush's folly. If you want to take the original rationale of removing Saddam and his WMDs and "terrorists" as threats to us and the rest of the world, well that was won before the first shots were fired. If you wanted a stable, egalitarian, unified Iraq, well all the kings horses and all the kings men will never accomplish that, at least not with force of arms. We tried that for 8 years, or have you already forgotten?

    The most important thing to remember is that, aside from a few dead-enders, everybody wanted the war to be over at least our part of it. Bush with the SOFA wanted it, the Iraqi government and people wanted it, the American people and the government we elected wanted it.

    Of course Obama

    has told the world that is what he wanted to do
    , matter of fact he promised it. You can accuse of him of cutting and running, most people applaud him for ending our engagement in this hopeless quagmire.

    What exactly did we win in Iraq Jim? A solution to age old sectarian, ethnic and political strife?
    Did we win an enduring peace and an inclusive democratic government? Not even close, so you declare a temporary reduction of violence enforced by our military as victory.

    A win is not a win if you must enforce that victory with an open ended commitment of combat forces.


    Oh, for Chrissake, Jim! (5.00 / 2) (#20)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Tue May 26, 2015 at 11:14:54 AM EST
    Why can't you just turn off your right-wing crackpot Obamaphobia for once, and learn to examine a problem objectively, without political bias and without resorting to GOP talking points as your one-size-fits-all answer?

    The primary mistake was made back in March 2003, when we plunged recklessly and headlong down the rabbit hole that was Iraq with any thought as to what was to come after Saddam Hussein and the Baathists, once they was removed from power. That's something that cannot be undone, and that has nothing to do with Obama.

    Our present dilemma is in attempting to make the best of what's long been a bad situation with no decent answers. So, enough with the nonsense that "Obama cut and ran," because once again you are  completely ignoring the existence of a standing  status of forces agreement that was negotiated between the Bush administration and the Iraqi government before Obama assumed office, the terms of which required us to leave Iraq.

    We have to deal with the real world as it is, and not as it exists in your parallel universes of Crackpotopia and Obamapaloozaland, in which facts are trivial things to be ignored at your pleasure and leisure. And all you're doing here with your Obama drive-bys is inviting our contempt, scorn and repeated ridicule.



    The war was won? (none / 0) (#18)
    by Mordiggian 88 on Tue May 26, 2015 at 08:38:48 AM EST
    I hate to go all 2004 on you, but what color is the sky in your world?  

     If you look at the time line the formation and planning for the formation of ISIS, it took plac during the GWB Administration.

    Read the article and disabuse yourself of the notion that everything was hunky-dory when Obama came into office and messed things up.

    No charge for the lesson, as usual.