Outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Thursday exposed a growing rift between the United States and Iraq when he blasted its new prime minister for publicly complaining that the international community has left his country in a lurch.
“The flow of ammunition and materiel and the requests continue at an accelerated rate,” Mr. Hagel said at a Pentagon press conference. “So I do disagree with the prime minister’s comments. I would say, even further, that I don’t think they’re helpful.”
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told The Associated Press this week that a U.S.-led coalition of about 60 countries, known as Operation Inherent Resolve, has stalled on its promise to train and equip Iraqi fighters to battle the Islamic State.
Over the past year, the Islamic extremist group has captured a wide swath of territory in northern Iraq, including Mosul, the country’s second largest city.
“We are in this almost on our own,” Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said. “There is a lot being said and spoken, but very little on the ground.”
The Pentagon has made a spending request to Congress of $1.6 billion, with the bulk of those funds going toward training and arming Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the AP said. Overall, the U.S. is looking to provide an estimated $89.3 million worth of weapons and other equipment to the Iraqis.
In addition to promises of training and equipment, the U.S. military has been spearheading a large-scale international effort to help the Iraqis reclaim the parts of their country.
Military officials and their Operation Inherent Resolve partners have been continuously dropping bombs on Islamic State militants since August in an effort to thwart dislodge the group’s control of vital infrastructure, like dams, structures and oil storage units.
Progress is being made, Mr. Hagel said while expressing frustration with Mr. al-Abadi during what is expected to be one of his last public appearances as defense chief. Instead of complaining, Mr. al-Abadi, should be holding up his part of the bargain, which involves creating a more inclusive government, he said.
The new prime minister promised the international community that he would work toward that goal when he took office in late 2014. So far, his efforts to maintain that commitment have been humdrum, Mr. Hagel said.
“Is he moving as fast as he would like?” he asked. “Probably not.”