10 years ago
Official Iraqi army hinders U.S. efforts due to commitment to tribes over Iraq nationalism. Heavy reliance on proxy fighters is unwise and unproductive.
I have commented (negatively and disparagingly) on the tendency to rely too heavily on proxy fighters to accomplish U.S. mission objectives. In the case of the tribal commitments in the al Anbar province, the concern will be that these troops do not have training, command and control, commitment to nationalism, or self-confidence. It appears that in the Shia-controlled areas, some of the same problems exist, even among the offocial Iraqi army.
The plan was simple: Iraqi troops would block escape routes while U.S. soldiers searched for weapons house-by-house. But the Iraqi troops didn’t show up on time.
When they finally did appear, the Iraqis ignored U.S. orders and let dozens of cars pass through checkpoints in eastern Baghdad _ including an ambulance full of armed militiamen, American soldiers said in recent interviews.
It wasn’t an isolated incident, they added.
Senior U.S. commanders have hailed the performance of Iraqi troops in the crackdown on militias and insurgents in Baghdad. But some U.S. soldiers say the Iraqis serving alongside them are among the worst they’ve ever seen _ seeming more loyal to militias than the government.
That raises doubts whether the Iraqis can maintain order once the security operation is over and the Americans have left. It also raises broader questions about the training, reliability and loyalty of Iraqi troops _ who must be competent, U.S. officials say, before America can begin pulling out of Iraq.
Last week, for example, Sgt. 1st Class Eric Sheehan could barely contain his frustration when he discovered that barriers and concertina wire that were supposed to bolster defensive positions had been dragged away _ again _ under the noses of nearby Iraqi soldiers.
‘(I) suggest we fire these IAs and get them out of the way,’ Sheehan, of Jennerstown, Pa., reported to senior officers, referring to Iraqi army troops. ‘There’s nothing we can do,’ came the reply.
U.S. soldiers from the 4th Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment eventually blocked the road again while Iraqi troops watched from a distance.
Some Americans speculated the missing barriers were dragged off to strengthen militia defenses in nearby Sadr City, a sprawling Shiite neighborhood that is a stronghold of anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
This may not be justification for turning back the hands of time and dismissing the Iraqi army, but it certainly warns against heavy reliance on the use of either the official Iraqi army or groups of tribal recruits in al Anbar to effect U.S. mission objectives.