The United States has quietly started delivering promised arms for Iraqi soldiers from a $1.6 billion fund approved by Congress last year, officials said, following mounting Iraqi frustration over the pace of coalition assistance.
The Pentagon said long-awaited equipment from the Iraq Train and Equip Fund (ITEF) started being fielded about two weeks ago and was moving as fast as possible. Officials noted extensive, previous arms transfers under different U.S. authorities.
Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi laid bare his frustrations at a gathering in Paris this week, saying Baghdad had received “almost none” of the promised international assistance.
“They’re complaining the program is too slow. But the fact is it’s a slow system,” said Douglas Ollivant, a former Iraq adviser in the Obama and Bush administrations.
By contrast, he added, “they tell the Russians they want fighter planes and they show up in a month.”
The first U.S. material provided to Iraqi forces under ITEF outfitted an Iraqi army brigade with rifles, machine guns, grenade launchers, mortars, protective masks and other gear.
And more arms were on the way, Pentagon spokeswoman Commander Elissa Smith said.
“This is the first of several planned unit equipment issues
for the coming weeks, which will include Peshmerga units,” said
Smith, referring to Kurdish forces.
She said the first issue of equipment from the fund to Iraq’s army occurred the week of May 18th, the same week that Ramadi fell to Islamic State, handing the Iraqi military its biggest defeat in nearly a year. A delivery of AT-4 anti-tank weapons last weekend also came from the fund, she said.