As Sunni militants advance on the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, Pentagon officials say they are watching events in the country closely and will continue to help Iraqi security forces build their defensive capacity.
Reports from Iraq say jihadists aligned with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria — ISIS – have captured Mosul, the country’s second-largest city as well as Tikrit, and are moving south towards Baghdad. Reports from Mosul say thousands of Iraqi soldiers threw down their arms and fled.
“Our focus continues to be on helping Iraq,” Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said on CNN this morning. “We have been doing a lot since the American troops left Iraq. The focus is a continued, sustained effort helping them with the counterterrorism operations.”
In particular, the United States will continue to supply weapons to Iraq and to train Iraqi special operations forces in neighboring Jordan, said Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman.
The United States is providing Iraq with about $15 billion in military equipment under the foreign military sales program.
“Recently, we have sent them 300 Hellfire missiles, millions of rounds of small arms, thousands of rounds of tank ammunition. Scan Eagle surveillance platforms are on schedule for delivery later in the year,” Warren said. “We’ve also recently notified Congress of an additional sale of $1 billion, which includes 200 Humvees.”
Under the strategic framework agreement that Iraq signed with the United States, the American military has expanded its training programs, including a second round of counterterrorism training for Iraqi special operators.
These weapons transfers will continue, Warren said. The United States takes security of advanced systems particularly seriously, and any transfer takes the security of these systems under consideration.
DOD officials speaking on background pointed out that many of the photos ISIS is posting of captured U.S. equipment are actually old U.S. photos pulled from the web. One photo shows a “captured” UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. The United States has never supplied a Black Hawk to Iraq, officials said.
In another case, a photo purporting to be a captured surface-to-air missile vehicle was actually taken by a U.S. Air Force staff sergeant in 2003. It shows Russian equipment.
All U.S. combat troops left Iraq in 2011.
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service