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U.S. to arm Iraq’s Sunni tribesmen | TribLIVE.com
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U.S. to arm Iraq’s Sunni tribesmen

Tribune-Review
| Saturday, November 22, 2014 7:54 p.m
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Reuters
A still image taken from a purported Islamic State video released September 18, 2014 by the SITE Intel Group shows British captive John Cantlie making a statement. Islamic State militants fighting in Iraq and Syria released a video on Thursday that they said shows British journalist John Cantlie in captivity saying he will soon reveal 'facts' about the group to counter its portrayal in Western media. The Islamic State, which controls territory in Syria and Iraq, has already beheaded two American journalists and one British aid worker in recent weeks in what it said was reprisal for U.S. air strikes against it in Iraq. REUTERS/SITE Intel Group via Reuters TV (SYRIA - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW) NO SALES. NO ARCHIVES. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. MANDATORY CREDIT

WASHINGTON— The United States plans to buy arms for Sunni tribesmen in Iraq including AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades and mortar rounds to help bolster the battle against Islamic State terrorists in Anbar province, according to a Pentagon document prepared for Congress.

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 in its overall strategy to diminish the 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,” the document said, using another acronym for the group that has seized control of large parts of Syria and Iraq and is gaining territory in Anbar despite three months of U.S.-led airstrikes.

A U.S. official said on Saturday that the document was posted this week. Go to http://1.usa.gov/11nsTuN to read it.

It said all American 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 particularly welcome in Anbar and other majority Sunni areas,” citing their poor combat performance and sectarian divisions.

Iraq’s army has been burdened by a legacy of sectarianism in Anbar, whose dominant Sunni population resented former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shiite majority government and were incensed when he ordered troops to clear a protest camp in Ramadi in December 2013.

The ensuing Sunni tribal revolt prompted the entrance of Islamic State into Fallujah and Ramadi, where U.S. troops had met fierce resistance from Sunni insurgents including al-Qaida during their occupation of Iraq after the 2003 invasion that overthrew Saddam Hussein.

The United States, which has deployed a small number of military advisers to Anbar province, hopes the Sunni tribesmen can later form part of a more formal Iraqi National Guard.

The Pentagon document also detailed $1.24 billion to be spent on Iraqi forces and $354.8 million on Kurdish troops.

“While the trend on the battlefield has been promising in stemming ISIL gains, Iraq lacks the training expertise and equipment to field the forces needed to liberate territory,” the document read.

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