Leaving Iraq

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 2 months ago

A recent review of the U.S. efforts in Iraq has yielded quite a negative assessment.  The following is taken from the text of a memorandum from Col. Timothy R. Reese, Chief, Baghdad Operations Command Advisory Team, MND-B, Baghdad, Iraq.

” … we aren’t making the GOI and the ISF better in any significant ways with our current approach. Remaining in Iraq through the end of December 2011 will yield little in the way of improving the abilities of the ISF or the functioning of the GOI. Furthermore, in light of the GOI’s current interpretation of the limitations imposed by the 30 June milestones of the 2008 Security Agreement, the security of US forces are at risk. Iraq is not a country with a history of treating even its welcomed guests well. This is not to say we can be defeated, only that the danger of a violent incident that will rupture the current partnership has greatly increased since 30 June. Such a rupture would force an unplanned early departure that would harm our long term interests in Iraq and potentially unraveling the great good that has been done since 2003. The use of the military instrument of national power in its current form has accomplished all that can be expected.” The general lack of progress in essential services and good governance is now so broad that it ought to be clear that we no longer are moving the Iraqis “forward.” Below is an outline of the information on which I base this assessment:

1. The ineffectiveness and corruption of GOI Ministries is the stuff of legend.

2. The anti-corruption drive is little more than a campaign tool for Maliki

3. The GOI is failing to take rational steps to improve its electrical infrastructure and to improve their oil exploration, production and exports.

4. There is no progress towards resolving the Kirkuk situation.

5. Sunni Reconciliation is at best at a standstill and probably going backwards.

6. Sons of Iraq (SOI) or Sahwa transition to ISF and GOI civil service is not happening, and SOI monthly paydays continue to fall further behind.

7. The Kurdish situation continues to fester.

8. Political violence and intimidation is rampant in the civilian community as well as military and legal institutions.

9. The Vice President received a rather cool reception this past weekend and was publicly told that the internal affairs of Iraq are none of the US’s business.

The Colonel goes on to outlines the problems with the Iraqi Security Forces.

a) Corruption among officers is widespread b) Neglect and mistreatment of enlisted men is the norm c) The unwillingness to accept a role for the NCO corps continues d) Cronyism and nepotism are rampant in the assignment and promotion system e) Laziness is endemic f) Extreme centralization of C2 is the norm g) Lack of initiative is legion h) Unwillingness to change, do anything new blocks progress i) Near total ineffectiveness of the Iraq Army and National Police institutional organizations and systems prevents the ISF from becoming self-sustaining j) For every positive story about a good ISF junior officer with initiative, or an ISF commander who conducts a rehearsal or an after action review or some individual MOS training event, there are ten examples of the most basic lack of military understanding despite the massive partnership efforts by our combat forces and advisory efforts by MiTT and NPTT teams.

And in what could be the most telling testimony of the increased danger to U.S. forces, as well as the expenditure of U.S. reputation to no avail, Colonel Reese goes on to outline the changes in atmosphere and attitude since the signing of the SOFA.

It is clear that the 30 Jun milestone does not represent one small step in a long series of gradual steps on the path the US withdrawal, but as Maliki has termed it, a “great victory” over the Americans and fundamental change in our relationship. The recent impact of this mentality on military operations is evident:

1. Iraqi Ground Forces Command (IGFC) unilateral restrictions on US forces that violate the most basic aspects of the SA

2. BOC unilateral restrictions that violate the most basic aspects of the SA

3. International Zone incidents in the last week where ISF forces have resorted to shows of force to get their way at Entry Control Points (ECP) including the forcible takeover of ECP 1 on 4 July

4. Sudden coolness to advisors and CDRs, lack of invitations to meetings,

5. Widespread partnership problems reported in other areas such as ISF confronting US forces at TCPs in the city of Baghdad and other major cities in Iraq.

6. ISF units are far less likely to want to conduct combined combat operations with US forces, to go after targets the US considers high value, etc.

7. The Iraqi legal system in the Rusafa side of Baghdad has demonstrated a recent willingness to release individuals originally detained by the US for attacks on the US.

As an initial comment, the first Middle Eastern Army that is able to develop and implement a strong NCO corps will dominate the region.  We have tried exceedingly hard to instill this concept into the ISF, only to fail it would appear.

Uncle Jimbo at Blackfive isn’t appreciative of Colonel Reese’s position.

Amidst all of his caterwauling, and again I’m not saying that hs (sic) complaints don’t have merit, but he fails to consider that one gargantuan reason for us to stay a bit is to avoid leaving a power vaccuum (sic) that would undoubtedly be filled by Iran. That means we have a huge incentive to put up with the endemic craptasticness of the nascent Iraqi institutions and work to form a long term strategic relationship. We need to be their number one ally or Iran will be and that would negate many of the security gains a free deomcratic (sic) Iraq represents. So suck it up sir, and drive on with your mission.

Well, I appreciate the sentiment, and my own son risked his life in Fallujah in 2007; but it just isn’t that simple.  We have previously discussed the actual increased danger to U.S. troops stemming from Iraqi interpretations of the SOFA.

U.S. officials told the Post there have been numerous disagreements between the two forces. The newspaper reported one clash in which a U.S. unit wanted and failed to get permission to send out a patrol to trap insurgents allegedly planning a mortar attack on a U.S. base from an adjacent Iraqi neighborhood named Amiriyah. “I understand you have your orders,” the Iraqi commander told the American commander, “but I have my orders, too. You are not allowed to go inside of Amiriyah.” Iraqi soldiers have blocked American convoys, U.S. officials said.

So there is a very real danger to U.S. troops with the increased ISF chest-thumping.  But beyond the near and present danger, there is the very real diminution of U.S. reputation that we predicted would occur.  As for Iran, the current SOFA restricts the ability we have to be a counterbalance to its power.  Just recently, ISF attacked the home base for the MEK, an anti-Iranian group within Iraq The Captain’s Journal had been watching for some time.  This attack was a nod to Iranian influence and power in Iraq.

Should we leave?  Not exactly.  We had previously recommended that we withdraw the logistical and air support for the ISF to see if they are capable of holding terrain.  There are current reports of violence in Haditha.  Contra the views of Pollyanna Iraq analysts like Nibras Kazimi (who believes that the Shi’ites have defeated the Sunnis in Iraq), I have long believed that despite the fact that the Sunnis comprise only 15% of the population, rejection of the Sons of Iraq program would lead to further violence and potential undermining of the Maliki government.  Then again, I have always thought of Maliki as a stooge who is too driven by sectarian interests even to see threats to his own administration.

We had suggested that U.S. focus be the Iranian border and training operations.  Along with a standdown of troops over the next 24 months in order to supply troops to the campaign in Afghanistan, this should be sufficient to keep U.S. troops busy.  Keeping busy and doing the minimum we can to prevent cross border operations may be all that we are capable of doing.  Bush’s failure to see and address this as a regional war is only exacerbated with the new administration and the SOFA.

Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that we are able to do the things we have in the past in Iraq.  We are under new rules, and these rules have a draconian affect on even our ability to ensure force protection.  Actions have consequences, and the SOFA should never have been signed.  Left impotent inside the cities, in order to ensure force protection, we must withdraw to the countryside and focus on different things.  I believe that Colonel Reese understands this.


Redux on U.S. Troop Restrictions in Iraq

House Arrest for U.S. Forces in Iraq

Iraqi Commanders Move to Restrict U.S. Troops Under SOFA

The Violence Belongs to Iraq Now

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You are currently reading "Leaving Iraq", entry #3506 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Iraq,Iraq SOFA and was published August 2nd, 2009 by Herschel Smith.

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