Pentagon sending 2,000 anti-tank weapons to Iraq

Pentagon sending 2,000 anti-tank weapons to Iraq

The Pentagon announced on Thursday it is sending 2,000 anti-tank weapons to Iraq, following the rout of U.S.-backed forces in Ramadi by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The weapons will arrive as early as next week, said Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren. 

He said the U.S. is also expediting the delivery of other equipment, including ammunition and other equipment to counter ISIS's increasing reliance on vehicle-borne bombs.

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Within the last 30 days, the U.S. also helped to deliver coalition donations of 22 million rounds of small arms ammunition and 12,000 mortar rounds to the Iraqi army, Warren said. 

Since Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's visit to Washington in April, the U.S. has also delivered 250 mine-resistant, ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicles, 50 of them with mine rollers; 2,000 Hellfire missiles; 20,000 M-16s; 10,000 sets of body armor and helmets; and millions of rounds of ammunition, including small arms, tank artillery and anti-tank weapons. 

The weapons are going to the central government of Iraq, for distribution to its army, as well as Kurdish peshmerga and Sunni tribal fighters.  

Kurdish and Sunni leaders who have visited Washington say their forces are not getting their fair share of weapons and not getting them fast enough from the Shiite-dominated government. 

Baghdad had not paid the police in Ramadi for months, forcing them to solicit cash from families and businessmen to buy weapons, a senior Iraqi police officer told The Washington Post earlier this week. 

The U.S. has insisted its strategy of bolstering a strong central government in Iraq, rather than sending arms directly to the Kurds and Sunnis is the best course of action in its strategy to fight ISIS. 

A senior State Department official on Wednesday said the central government's national security cabinet immediately convened after the fall of Ramadi to develop a national program to mobilize Sunni fighters in the Anbar Province that would include a "streamlined delivery mechanism for weapons." 

"That’s something we’ve been working on for some time, but that’s something that is starting to move. And we’re going to use this — this particular challenge to really accelerate it," the official said.