Iraq rebuts US criticism of security forces

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BAGHDAD: Iraq on Monday rejected accusations by the US defence chief that its security forces dodged battle in Ramadi and lack the will to fight the Islamic State group.

Pentagon chief Ashton Carter argued that the May 17 fall of Ramadi, the worst defeat Baghdad has suffered in almost a year, could have been avoided.

“We have an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight ISIL and defend themselves,” he told CNN on Sunday, using one of the acronyms of the militant group.

Washington has been one of Baghdad’s key partners in the war to reclaim the ground lost to IS last year and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi expressed disbelief at Carter’s stinging comments.

“I’m surprised why he said that. I mean, he was very supportive of Iraq. I am sure he was fed with the wrong information,” Abadi told the BBC.

A senior Iranian general involved in the fight against IS hit out at Washington, saying it had failed to help Iraqi forces in Ramadi despite its military presence at the Al-Asad air base in the same province.

“How can you be in that country under the pretext of protecting the Iraqis and do nothing? This is no more than being an accomplice in a plot,” said Qassem Suleimani, the Revolutionary Guards’ commander of foreign operations.

Iran has military advisers in Iraq and Syria and provides financial and military support to the governments of both countries in their battle against extremists.

The loss of Ramadi, capital of Iraq’s largest province Anbar, raised questions over the strategy adopted not only by Baghdad but also by Washington to tackle IS.

Months of air strikes and the deployment of advisers to reform and train the security forces have failed to keep up with IS’s aggressive tactics.

“Secretary Carter’s remarks are surprising and likely to negatively affect the morale of the ISF,” Iraq analyst Ahmed Ali said, referring to Iraqi security forces.

Ali argued there were examples of Iraqi forces showing plenty of grit and cited the Baiji refinery, where elite troops have repelled relentless IS attacks for months

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