— -- The White House is not disputing Defense Secretary Ash Carter's contention that the Iraqi Army lacks the will to fight.
“Well, that certainly has been a problem we’ve seen in the past; that's what allowed ISIL to make such significant gains last summer,” Press Secretary Josh Earnest told ABC News in today’s press briefing when pressed on whether the White House agreed with Carter's assessment about why Ramadi, the capital city of Iraq’s largest province, fell to ISIS.
Carter said Sunday in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” “What apparently happened was that the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight. They were not out-numbered but in fact they vastly outnumbered the opposing force, and yet they failed to fight.”
It initially appeared Monday that Vice President Joe Biden was patching up Carter's remark by placing a call to Iraq’s prime minister to “reaffirm U.S. support” and recognize “the enormous sacrifice and bravery of Iraqi forces.” But there was no hint of an apology in today’s briefing.
“What the Iraqi government has acknowledged is that the setback that they experienced in Ramadi was at least in part attributable to a breakdown in some military command and planning,” Earnest told reporters today.
Earnest did not directly answer the question when asked whether the president agreed with Carter and instead listed a variety of factors that he said contributed to a weak security situation in Ramadi.
“The first is that the Iraqi security forces who were fighting in Ramadi and had been fighting in Ramadi didn’t have benefit of the training of the US and our coalition partners,” Earnest said. “There were clearly, as the Iraqis have indicated, some military command and planning problems that occurred. And we saw a pretty effective tactic used by ISIL, and all of that led to a not unsubstantial setback in Ramadi.”
The White House press secretary went on to praise the offensive launched by Iraq this morning to reclaim western Anbar province but reiterated the administration’s intention to stay the course with its supporting role.
“This is not something the United States is willing to do for the Iraqi people,” Earnest said. “And the Iraqi central government, Prime Minister Abadi has made crystal clear on a number of occasions, he doesn't want anybody to step in and do this for them.”