The United States plans to buy arms for Sunni tribesmen in Iraq, including AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades and mortar rounds, to help bolster the battle against Islamic State (IS) militants in Anbar province, according to a Pentagon document prepared for Congress. The plan to spend $24.1 million represents a small fraction of the larger, $1.6 billion spending request to Congress focusing on training and arming Iraqi and Kurdish forces. But the document underscored the importance the Pentagon places on the Sunni tribesmen to its overall strategy to diminish IS, and cautioned Congress about the consequences of failing to assist them.
Not arming tribal fighters will continue to leave anti-ISIL tribes reluctant to actively counter ISIL.
Excerpt from Pentagon document prepared for Congress
Iraq’s army has been burdened by a legacy of sectarianism in Anbar, whose dominant Sunni population resented former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s Shi’ite majority government and were incensed when he ordered troops to clear a protest camp in Ramadi in December 2013. The ensuing Sunni tribal revolt prompted the entrance of IS into Falluja and Ramadi, where U.S. troops had met fierce resistance from Sunni insurgents during their occupation of Iraq after the 2003 invasion. The United States, which has deployed a small number of military advisors to Anbar province, hopes the Sunni tribesmen can later form part of a more formal Iraqi National Guard.