WASHINGTON — There are warehouses full of weapons and equipment to train Iraqi counterterror troops fighting the Islamic State group, but Iraqi red tape is keeping it locked up, according to a Pentagon watchdog agency.
Tight controls on first‑aid kits, ammunition, body armor, vehicles and weapon‑cleaning supplies was hindering American trainers, and the likely performance in combat for Iraq Counterterrorism Service trainees. This was just one of the problems with their training that the Department of Defense Inspector General advised fixes for, according to a report released Friday.
Inspectors on a warehouse tour found that weapons-cleaning oil was sitting stockpiled, and not reaching trainers and the field, where it was in short supply. Warehouses were so tightly controlled that a U.S. special operations advisor told inspectors he needed the approval of a two-star Iraqi general to get a can of lubricant for training use.
Inspectors also found at the Iraqi Counterterrorism Service's training center, which is run with help from Special Operations Training Command–Iraq, offered no live‑fire training on the weapons — the AT‑4, M‑72 and SPG‑9 — the Counterterrorism Service trainees would use in combat.
"The lack of training and familiarity with those weapons could produce soldiers who are not able to accurately and effectively employ their weapons," the report reads. "In addition to limiting CTS soldier's combat effectiveness, this may increase the risk of friendly fire casualties and other collateral damage to nearby facilities and equipment, due to the firing characteristics of those weapons."
Special Operations Training Command–Iraq told inspectors that the Iraqis never identified live-fire training as a requirement — and that they use dry‑fire, simulated firing and weapons manipulation drills as a work-around. The school has neither the appropriate space nor the ability to transport trainees to such a space, U.S. trainers reportedly said.
Iraqi counterterrorism forces led operations to clear the Islamic State group from Ramadi in 2015, and — with U.S. led airstrikes — seized back Hit, Fallujah, and Qayyarah. They are involved in ongoing operations to retake Mosul.
Congress has authorized more than $2 billion for the Iraq Train and Equip Fund, which dovetails with U.S. and Coalition advise‑and‑assist teams working to improve operational planning, communication, intelligence coordination, and targeting — all in support of Iraqi‑led ground operations.