Defense Secretary Ash Carter says the Islamic State group's takeover of Ramadi is evidence that Iraqi forces do not have the "will to fight."
In an unusually candid assessment on CNN's "State of the Union," Carter said Iraqi forces vastly outnumbered the opposition in Ramadi, but failed to fight and pulled back from the provincial capital in central Iraq.
"What apparently happened was that the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight," Carter told CNN's Barbara Starr. "They were not outnumbered. In fact, they vastly outnumbered the opposing force, and yet they failed to fight, they withdrew from the site, and that says to me, and I think to most of us, that we have an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight ISIL and defend themselves."
Carter says the United States can provide training, weapons and air support in the fight against the Islamic State extremists. But he says the Iraqi forces will have to show a willingness to fight for their country.
"We can give them training, we can give them equipment -- we obviously can't give them the will to fight," Carter said. "But if we give them training, we give them equipment, and give them support, and give them some time, I hope they will develop the will to fight, because only if they fight can ISIL remain defeated."
He said the U.S. military had not recommended any changes for now in the support Washington is giving to Iraq.
"If there comes a time when we need to change the kinds of support we're giving to the Iraqi forces, we'll make that recommendation," Carter said, when asked about growing calls from Republican lawmakers for putting U.S. ground combat forces into Iraq.
Michele Flournoy, chief executive of the Center for a New American Security, told CNN that Washington needed to press the Iraqi government to provide more resources to the Sunni tribes in the western part of Iraq, who had a greater "political will to fight" than Iraqi forces.
Flournoy, a former undersecretary of defense for policy, welcomed Carter's comments about doing more if needed.
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