House Hearings Planned for Troubled US Training Program in Iraq

Rep. William "Mac" Thornberry, R-Texas, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, makes a visit to Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico. (AF photo)
Rep. William “Mac” Thornberry, R-Texas, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, makes a visit to Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico. (AF photo)

The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said Tuesday that he would hold hearings on the U.S. training programs for the Iraqi Security Force (ISF) to combat ISIS amid reports the Obama administration would soon announce a revamped program.

The committee would attempt to pin down "what works and what doesn't" in the long-standing U.S. program to train Iraqis and other foreign militaries, said Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Tex.

Citing U.S. officials, the Associated Press reported that the administration was considering sending another 1,000 U.S. trainers and advisers to ramp up the training program that has been hampered by a lack of Iraqi recruits. The administration was also considering setting up new training camps in Sunni-dominated Anbar province, the AP reported.

In a roundtable session with defense reporters, Thornberry seized on President Obama's remarks Monday in which he stated that the U.S. had yet to draw up a "complete strategy" for training the ISF and defeating ISIS because the Baghdad government was failing to provide a steady flow of recruits.

The lack of a strategy for defeating ISIS has been a constant theme of Republican critics of the administration in the House and Senate.

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"In some ways, I appreciate him (Obama) being more honest about it," Thornberry said of the Iraq strategy problem, "but he's kinda' like blaming everybody but himself. While I admire his candor, I haven't quite seen the road to redemption on this."

Thornberry said his study of training programs showed that they worked best when trainers were allowed to go with the recruits they had mentored into the field to continue the advisory role, but Obama has thus far ruled out putting U.S. troops on the front lines in Iraq.

On Monday, Obama said he was awaiting a plan from Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to speed up the training.

"The details are not worked out," he said.

Also on Monday, Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said that the 3,000 trainers and advisors already there have not been fully utilized because of the lack of recruits reporting for the six-week training program that stresses the basic skills – shooting, moving and communicating.

"We want to be able to increase our capacity, but the Iraqis have to be able to supply the recruits," Warren said.

Warren said 8,920 Iraqi recruits had completed the training program as of June 4, and another 2,601 were now in training.

None of the U.S –trained troops were in Ramadi when the ISF fled from the ISIS assault last month, Warren said, and he could not say whether U.S.-trained troops were in the ISF contingents now seeking to push ISIS out of the oil refinery city of Baiji, about 140 miles north of Ramadi.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at

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