Defense Secretary Ash Carter says that Iraqi forces lack the "will to fight" the self-declared Islamic State and that they lost western Anbar province to the extremist group despite outnumbering their opponents.
Speaking on CNN's State of the Union, Carter said that although Iraqi forces, or ISF, "vastly outnumber" ISIS in western Anbar, and in their loss of the provincial capital, Ramadi, last week, "What apparently happened is the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight. They were not outnumbered. In fact, they vastly outnumbered the opposing force."
The capture of Ramadi was followed quickly by the fall of the ancient city of Palmyra to ISIS.
"We can give them training, we can give them equipment — we obviously can't give them the will to fight," Carter tells CNN.
As The Associated Press notes: "The harsh assessment [raises] new questions about the Obama administration's strategy to defeat the extremist group that has seized a strategically important swath of the Middle East."
The defense secretary's remarks echoed those made by Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said last week that "The ISF was not driven out of Ramadi ... They drove out of Ramadi."
But Iraqi lawmaker Hakim al-Zamili, the head of the parliamentary defense and security committee, fired back at Carter's comments. He was quoted by the AP as calling them "unrealistic and baseless."
"The Iraqi army and police did have the will to fight IS group in Ramadi, but these forces lack good equipment, weapons and aerial support," he told the AP.
The BBC reports that the Iraqi government has deployed Shiite militias to the area and that on Saturday those forces had retaken Husayba, east of Ramadi and that heavy fighting was continuing in the area.