US-trained Iraqi troops to join Ramadi counteroffensive

For the first time, Iraqi troops trained by the U.S.-led coalition have been added to the assault force Iraq is using to retake the city of Ramadi, a U.S. military official said Thursday.

BAGHDAD — For the first time, Iraqi troops trained by the U.S.-led coalition have been added to the assault force Iraq is using to retake the city of Ramadi, a U.S. military official said Thursday.

The news that about 3,000 U.S.-trained Iraqi army soldiers were added to the fight in recent days was disclosed to Defence Secretary Ash Carter, who spent the day getting updates and meeting with U.S. and Iraqi officials and commanders in Baghdad. It was Carter’s first visit to Iraq since he took office in February.

The visit comes at an important moment for the Iraqi government just before the counteroffensive on Ramadi. The actual assault on the city has not yet begun, but a Pentagon spokesman, Army Col. Steve Warren, said it could start within several weeks.

The Ramadi campaign will be a crucial test not only for the Iraqi government led by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, but also for the U.S. strategy of relying on Iraqi security forces, operating in co-ordination with U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, to overcome the smaller Islamic State forces. President Barack Obama has opted not to commit U.S. ground combat forces to Iraq, saying the only lasting solution is for Iraq to fight for itself.

Warren said the Pentagon chief was told that two Iraqi army brigades totalling about 3,000 soldiers joined the Ramadi counteroffensive within the last three to five days. “This is a development we are very satisfied to hear,” Warren said.

He said that one of those newly trained units advanced about 4 miles toward Ramadi within the last 24 hours.

Warren also said that U.S. officials received Iraqi battlefield reports that say Iraqi forces have advanced to or near Anbar University in Ramadi. But he said the U.S. has no independent confirmation of that.

Warren said that in addition to the 3,000 newly trained Iraqi soldiers now operating in the Ramadi area, about 500 Sunni Arab tribal fighters have also recently joined the advancing force.

The Iraqi government intends to exclude all Shiite militias from the Ramadi operation — even those said to be under control of the Iraqi government, a key move toward getting the troops to work together effectively.

Carter’s first stop on a daylong visit to the Iraqi capital was the Iraqi Counterterrorism Service Academy. He spent about 20 minutes there, watching Iraqi soldiers in their trademark all-black uniforms manoeuvr and fire at silhouette targets at a firing range. Some wore partial or full face masks.

“Your forces have performed so very well, so very bravely,” Carter told them.“ And I know that you have suffered great losses too, but I just wanted to tell you that it is very clear to us in Washington what a capable force this is. So it’s a privilege for us to be your partners.”

The Iraqi troops advancing on Anbar and others are being trained by the approximately 3,360 troops now in Iraq who are also advising Iraqi commanders on battle plans, and providing security for U.S. personnel and facilities. The U.S., joined by several coalition partners, also is conducting airstrikes daily to chip away at the Islamic State’s grip on large parts of Iraq.

American military leaders have said they would recommend to Obama that he approve moving U.S. military advisers and perhaps special operations forces closer to the front lines if they believed it would make a decisive difference at certain stages of the Iraqi campaign. But Warren said they haven’t done so yet. Obama’s critics in Congress complain that he is missing an opportunity to swiftly defeat the Islamic State by not sending U.S. ground combat troops or at least placing military advisers with Iraqi units to make them more effective.

After Iraqi troops abandoned Ramadi in early May, handing the Islamic State its biggest battlefield victory of 2015, Carter caused a stir when he said Iraq’s army “just showed no will to fight.” That frank assessment exposed a central Iraqi weakness born of the country’s sectarian split.

Carter noted that the Iraqi forces abandoned their weapons and equipment, including dozens of American-supplied tanks, armoured fighting vehicles and artillery pieces, even though they outnumbered Islamic State fighters. They became part of the Islamic State’s arsenal and were then targeted in U.S. airstrikes.

The Islamic State will again be outnumbered when, as expected, the Iraqi army makes a renewed assault on Ramadi. Warren said there are between 1,000 and 2,000 Islamic State fighters in Ramadi and “several thousand” Iraqi troops in the area now.

Warren said Iraqi security forces currently are carrying out “isolation operations” around Ramadi, meaning they are cutting off avenues of Islamic State resupply and reinforcement. Although under Iraqi command, the battle plan has been shaped to some degree by American advisers.

“We are beginning to isolate Ramadi from multiple directions,” Warren said, “to place a noose around the city.” At a later stage — the timing of which he would not predict — the assault phase of the campaign will begin.

The loss of Ramadi was a major setback for Iraq, not just for the territory given up but for the psychological blow it inflicted on the security forces, whose confidence already was low. It also meant a delay in the push to retake a city of even greater strategic importance, Mosul in northern Iraq. Mosul has been in Islamic State hands since June 2014.

When Carter became Pentagon chief in February, replacing Chuck Hagel, U.S. military officials were talking openly about hoping the Iraqis would march on the city by May. Those hopes had faded even before Ramadi fell. Still, the current focus on recapturing Ramadi will eventually have to move to Mosul and other parts of western and northern Iraq if Obama’s vision of empowering a unified Iraq is to become reality.

Just Posted

RCMP looking for these two suspects
Police looking for suspects who stole truck in central Alberta

A Ford F350 was stolen out of Blackfalds on June 9. Two… Continue reading

An excavator is tearing up old parking lots at the Michener Centre north site. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).
Demolition gets underway at Michener Centre’s north site

Some people are nostaligic, but not everyone is sad to see it go

The Red Deer Indian Industrial school stood off Burnt Lake Trail and across the Red Deer River from Fort Normandeau. The residential school is known to have lost at least 70 students through illness, poor sanitation and nutrition. (Advocate file photo)
Some Indigenous leaders say SNC-Lavalin can’t make up to First Nations people with offer of help

Quebec company is connected to MP Jody Wilson-Raybould allegations

RCMP are looking for this 30-year-old missing woman.
Red Deer RCMP looking for missing woman

The Red Deer RCMP are asking for the public’s assistance to locate… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

(Photo contributed)
Red Deer’s Ernco Braves go 4-0 in opening weekend games

Braves shot out Edmonton Padres in four straight games

Love it or hate it, tequila conjures up strong feelings in many drinkers. For some, there are bad memories. But today’s premium tequilas are changing some of those perceptions. (Photo by The Associated Press)
Rethinking tequila: Premium brands aim to change perceptions

LONDON — Love it or hate it, tequila conjures up strong feelings… Continue reading

This image provided by Glenorangie shows Glenorangie's Giraffe Tin. To enjoy the occasional beverage and also help wildlife, consider Glenorangie's Giraffe Tin. The Highland Scotch maker's stills are the tallest in Scotland, as tall as a giraffe, and the collectible tin is patterned like the animal's coat. Each purchase supports the Giraffe Conservation Foundation. (Glenorangie via AP)
Father’s Day gifts that celebrate interests old and new

After a pandemic year in which the shape of work and play… Continue reading

Pumpjacks are shown pumping crude oil near Halkirk, Alta., on June 20, 2007.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/Larry MacDougal
Canada’s crude oil exports have increased 15-fold in 30 years: report

HALIFAX — The value of crude oil exports from Canada has increased… Continue reading

Everlasting Wind, aka Dawn Goodwin, joins others by raising her fist in the Mississippi River near an Enbridge pipeline construction site, on Monday, June 7, 2021, in Clearwater County, Minn., to protest the construction of Enbridge Line 3. Goodwin is a co-founder of RISE Coalition. More than 2,000 Indigenous leaders and "water protectors" gathered in Clearwater County from around the country. The day started with a prayer circle and moved on to a march to the Mississippi headwaters where the oil pipeline is proposed to be built. (Alex Kormann/Star Tribune via AP)
Minnesota court affirms approval of Line 3 oil pipeline

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Court of Appeals on Monday affirmed… Continue reading

Perrin Beatty, President and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, speaks during a news conference held by the Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable, a coalition of airports, airlines, hotels, boards of trade and chambers of commerce, to urge the federal government to implement a reopening plan for travel and tourism, at the Ottawa Airport in Ottawa, on Monday, June 14, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Canadian business leaders demand plan to reopen borders, economy now

OTTAWA — Business leaders are calling on Ottawa to immediately lay out… Continue reading

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021.  The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

The national spotlight on residential schools is also highlighting a difficult question… Continue reading

Deputy Prime Minister, not shown, and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland joins Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as they participate in a virtual discussion from Ottawa on Monday, May 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Liberals move to cut debate, force vote on bill to implement 2021 budget

OTTAWA — The Trudeau Liberals moved on Monday to force an end… Continue reading

Most Read