Pentagon: 2,000 anti-tank weapons arrive in Iraq

Pentagon: 2,000 anti-tank weapons arrive in Iraq
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The Pentagon said Tuesday that a delivery of 2,000 anti-tank rocket systems has arrived in Iraq, which will help Iraqi forces combat vehicle bombs used by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. 

"The 2,000 AT-4s were delivered in theater in recent days and 1,000 were provided to [the government of Iraq]," said Pentagon spokeswoman Navy Cmdr. Elissa Smith.  

"The remainder will remain under control of [the U.S.-led military coalition] to be used for training [Iraqi forces] and for contingencies," she said. 

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The shipment was agreed to in April during a visit to Washington by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi, but was only announced late last month after ISIS seized Ramadi and Iraq complained of weapons delays by the U.S. 

The delivery comes as nations part of an anti-ISIS coalition meet in France, to discuss progress in the campaign against the terrorist group. 

It also comes in the wake of the fall of Ramadi, which has prompted the Obama administration to look at how it could better support Iraqi forces, particularly Sunni tribal fighters. 

Although the coalition has trained 7,000 Iraqi forces, none of them had fought in the defense of the city, according to Pentagon officials.

A senior State department official told reporters Monday on a background conference call that the U.S. was "ready to help" the Iraqis mobilize Sunni tribes in Anbar. 

"Iraqis have been working to do this. They need help, and we’re ready to help," the official said. 

Since the fall of Ramadi, 800 Sunni tribal fighters have enrolled as volunteers. Those forces will receive a paycheck from the state, and a weapon, the official said. There are 5,000 Sunni tribal fighters now enrolled in Anbar Province, the official added. 

The participation of the Sunni tribal fighters in the fight against ISIS is seen as crucial to not inflaming sectarian tensions in Sunni areas that distrust the Shia-dominated Iraqi central government and army. 

In addition, Iran-backed Shia forces are also assisting Baghdad in fighting ISIS, and are participating in the counteroffensive in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province, which is known as the "Sunni heartland."

The Pentagon said on Monday that not all of the Iranian-backed Shia militia in Iraq are under the command and control of Baghdad, and that it would only assist Iraqi forces that are. 

The official said those "Popular Mobilization Forces" are enlisted "primarily to cut of roadways and logistical resupply routes into Ramadi." 

"But it’s very important as this proceeds that all forces be brought under the command and control of the Iraqi Government and the Iraqi prime minister, and its something that is a fundamental element of the plan for Anbar province," the official said.