DOD Secretary: Despite U.S. Urging, Other Countries Aren't Helping Much in Iraq

Susan Jones | April 28, 2016 | 11:29am EDT
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Defense Secretary Ash Carter, right, with Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., confers with an aide on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, April 27, 2016, before the start of a Senate Defense subcommittee hearing to review the fiscal 2017 Defense Department budget request. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

( - The United States is not getting as much help from its allies as it would like in its fight against Islamic State terrorists. And that's not the only concern, as the U.S. military continues to advise and assist local Iraqi forces who are doing much of the ground fighting.

"A 9-to-1 ratio of international forces to U.S. forces" in Iraq -- "that would be a highly desirable circumstance to be in," Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.

"I have no indication from those countries, despite a lot of effort, of a willingness to do that."

Asked if Turkey -- a NATO ally that's located in Iraq's neighborhood -- can or should be doing more in the fight against ISIL, Carter said yes: "I've wanted them to do more for some time. I think I've made that clear. But we continue to work with them...They can make a larger contribution," he said, adding that he's grateful for the limited help Turkey is providing.

Carter said he's going to Stuttgart, Germany next week to meet with defense ministers from the other major contributors to the anti-ISIS campaign "to discuss ways we can all continue to accelerate our efforts."

President Obama recently announced that the U.S. is sending another 200 troops to Iraq, and an additional 250 special forces to Syria to coordinate with anti-ISIS forces there.

Carter made it clear that the defeat of ISIL must be achieved by local forces, supported and enabled by "the full might of the U.S. military."

But here, too, there are problems: "Enabling local forces, not substituting for them, is necessary to ensure a lasting defeat," Carter said. "And sometimes that means our pace is predicated on the speed at which local forces can absorb our enabling."

At Thursday's hearing, Carter also expressed concerns that go beyond the military effort: "I am increasingly concerned about political, economic and diplomatic challenges in both Iraq and Syria affecting the pace of the military campaign."

Carter said as the ISIS threat to Baghdad has eased, "political ambitions have created discord."

"And in some instances, ethno-sectarian competition has increased, creating an added burden and distraction for (Iraqi) Prime Minister Abadi's government before the task of defeating ISIL is complete.

"This, of course, is occuring while Iraq struggles with significant fiscal challenges due to the lower price of oil and a huge reconstruction bill as it retakes cities from  ISIL. And in Syria, competing agendas for the future of the political  transition are inhibiting the generation and coalescing of anti-ISIL forces.

Carter said the Obama administration needs support "from you in Congress to help ensure that military momentum is matched with political and economic momentum."

(Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Iraq on Thursday, to discuss Iraq's political infighting, which threatens to distract from the military efforts.)

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