U.S. plans to arm Iraq’s Anbar tribesmen

While Washington plans to arm anti-jihadist tribesmen in Anbar, Baghdad orders more air support for the western province

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While Iraq’s premier ordered on Saturday more air support for security forces and allied tribesmen fighting jihadists, Washington plans to buy arms for Sunni tribal members in the western province of Anbar including AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades and mortar rounds.

The United States planning to arm the Sunni tribesmen in Anbar comes after Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants killed 25 members of the anti-jihadist Albunimr tribe.

The decision is to help bolster the battle against ISIS militants in the Sunni-stronghold province, Reuters reported Saturday citing a Pentagon document being prepared for the Congress.

The plan

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 assist them.

“Not arming tribal fighters will continue to leave anti-ISIL tribes reluctant to actively counter ISIL,” Reuters quoted the document as saying, 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.

Abadi orders more air support

Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi ordered more air support for the security forces and allied tribal fighters in Anbar, Agence France-Presse reported.

He “ordered to provide extensive air support to Anbar, arm its sons, support and reinforce the armed forces in the province,” a statement from his office said.

The statement came as pro-government forces tried to fend off a major offensive by ISIS in and around the provincial capital Ramadi.

It said Abadi gave instructions to bolster the western province’s defenses after meeting a delegation from the Anbar provincial council in Baghdad.

“He assured that military operations will go on until the province is cleared, until the situation is stable and security and stability prevail,” the statement said.

ISIS on Friday launched an attack from four directions on Ramadi, a city that lies 100 kilometers (60 miles) west of the capital Baghdad and is one of the last areas in Anbar under government control.

The Iraqi army and police are fighting ISIS alongside some local Sunni tribes that oppose the jihadists.

Resisting ISIS has come at a heavy price for some in Anbar, with hundreds of members of the Albunimr tribe executed by the group in areas the government was unable to reach.

The tribal fighters in Anbar, whose cooperation with the Shiite-dominated government is seen as essential to defeating ISIS, have been demanding more air support from the government and the U.S.-led international coalition.

(With Reuters and AFP)

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