Pentagon Clearing Final Hurdles to Spend All Iraq Training Funds

The Pentagon is clearing the final congressional hurdles in the way of spending the entire $1.62 billion lawmakers approved last year to train and equip the Iraqi and Kurdish military.

The first dollars from the fund were spent in the week of May 18, when an Iraqi brigade was equipped with rifles, machine guns, grenade launchers, assault packs and protective masks, according to the U.S. Central Command. Kurdish Peshmerga units will receive similar equipment within weeks with money from the fund, the command said.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin Dempsey likely will be asked about the status of the expenditures Wednesday when they testify before the House Armed Services Committee about the Obama administration’s strategy to counter-Islamic State.

Expenditures so far have been limited to incremental steps initially proposed by the Pentagon last year, including a cost-sharing agreement with Iraq and allies that’s being met, according to a military spokeswoman. The required steps also include submitting reports and certifications to Congress.

The request to arm forces in Iraq to fight Islamic State was approved as part of this year’s defense budget. It would provide $1.23 billion for the Iraqi Security Forces, $354 million for Kurdish regional forces and $24 million for Sunni tribesman in Anbar province, where the extremists have made significant advances.

The U.S. Central Command until recently was limited to spending 25 percent of the $1.618 billion total, or $404.5 million, until the White House and Pentagon submitted a report to Congress, said U.S. Central Command spokeswoman Air Force Major Genieve David.

Congressional Review

“A congressional review has occurred and we are now authorized to spend up to a total 60 percent, or $970.8 million,” David said in an e-mail statement.

Spending the final 40 percent is contingent on the Iraqi government and allies contributing to a separate pool of funds equal to the outstanding amount, or $648 million. The Iraqi government must contribute half that total, according to a cost-sharing agreement proposed by the Pentagon and approved by Congress.

“We are closely tracking specific coalition and Iraqi contributions,” Pentagon spokeswoman Navy Commander Elissa Smith said in an e-mail statement today.

“While the final certification of contributions is still pending, all indications are that the required contributions from coalition members and Iraq have been met,” she said.

Once the certification is complete, it will be reported to Congress, and the remaining 40 percent of the funding will be released, Smith said.

List of Weapons

The Pentagon last year in its proposal outlined a detailed list of potential weapons and equipment purchases, some benefiting U.S. companies.

Proposed purchases include $37 million to buy 57,600 of U.S.-made M4 Carbines for Iraqi Security Forces and Kurdish units.

The U.S. also would buy 498 M2 .50-caliber machine guns made by General Dynamics Corp. and U.S. Ordnance Inc., based in McCarran, Nevada, at a cost of about $4.1 million.

About $34 million could be used to buy 1,704 Carl Gustaf M3 recoilless rifles from Sweden’s Saab AB. Sunni tribal forces in Anbar province would receive 5,000 AK-47 assault rifles costing $4.5 million.

Among the non-weapons items would be 2,256 AN/PSN-15 advanced hand-held Global Position Systems devices valued at $6 million for the Iraqi Security Forces and the Kurds.

The U.S. shipped 2,000 AT-4 anti-tank weapons to Iraqi force from existing U.S. stocks to counter Islamic State armored vehicles, David said.

Pentagon spokesman Army Colonel Steve Warren told reporters Tuesday that the AT-4s and heavy machine guns will constitute the primary anti-armor capability to be provided Iraqi Security Forces for now. The U.S. rushed delivery of the weapons to counter Islamic State’s use against trucks and armored vehicles as large bombs driven by suicide drivers.