ARLINGTON, Va. — The Iraqi army’s fuel distribution process is so poor, a U.S. commander in northern Iraq said Friday, that he is giving them fuel from his own pre-positioned tankers rather than lose “valuable opportunities” to capture insurgents.

Army Col. Stephen Twitty, commander of the 4th Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, said that since he and his team of about 4,000 soldiers arrived in Mosul in December, “I can think of two [occasions] where we were conducting operations and half of the 2nd Iraqi Army (Division), they were out of fuel.”

On one of those missions, Twitty told Pentagon reporters in a videoconference from Mosul, part of the operation had to be stopped.

“We lost valuable opportunities to pick up a couple of bad guys as a result of it,” he said.

After that incident in mid-January, “what we’ve learned to do now is when we conduct operations up here, we pre-position (fuel) tankers” for the Iraqi troops to use, Twitty said, “so we do not go through that again.”

Twitty said he is fully aware that he is doing an end run around “proper procedures.”

But given the urgent security situation, what he is doing is justified, he said.

“My intent [is] to keep Iraqis and the police on the streets at all times to protect the people,” Twitty said.

The 4th Brigade Combat Team is responsible for Nineveh province, where 20,000 members from the 2nd and 3rd Iraqi army divisions are also assigned and work with the Americans.

The root of the fuel problem, Twitty said, is that in the Iraqi army, instead of fuel “constantly coming, based on the amount of time that vehicles are being used,” the Iraqi Ministry of Defense issues fuel coupons.

Once an Iraqi army unit has used its allotment of fuel, Twitty said, it is not allowed to get more.

“It is all, ‘here is your fuel rations for the month, now if you run out of fuel for that month, OK, you’re out of luck,’” he said.

Twitty’s patience ended after a carefully planned cordon-and- search operation in mid-January went awry for lack of fuel for Iraqi trucks.

“We were going after enemy terrorists that were down there in a particular neighborhood,” Twitty said, and plans called for the entire 2nd Iraqi Division to participate, he said.

When it came time to roll out, however, an entire Iraqi brigade didn’t have the gas to start its engines.

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