June 23, 2015
Iraq is a failed state and Afghanistan is nipping at its heels. The news isn’t getting any better in Syria as President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is losing its grip to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror organization.
The Bush/Obama nation building schemes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen (story here) etc.… have largely failed leaving large ethnic groups displaced or considered refugees.
After 14 long years of continuous wars, American’s are at a crossroad– can the US win, whatever that means, in the Middle East and should we risk more lives and invest more money to achieve that goal?
Unfortunately, the lukewarm response from President Obama only adds to the confusion on the ground. And that confusion prompted large units of the Iraqi military to flee the battlefield in Ramadi last month, even though they were better armed and had far more soldiers than their ISIS counterparts. “That says to me and, I think, to most of us, that we have an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight ISIL and defend themselves,” President Obama told the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg. He continued by saying “if the Iraqis are not willing to fight for the security of their country, then we cannot do it for them.”
Yet the administration decided to send another 450 “advisors” to operate alongside Iraqi soldiers on the front lines. According to the Pentagon, the new advisors will do more than train Iraqis; they will advise, plan, integrate, and support the Iraqi Army on the battlefield. Some Ccritics argue it’s a first step down a slippery slope that could embroil the U.S. military in Iraq for years to come.
Currently, one of the biggest problems in Iraq right now is the large number of Iraqi Army deserters. The remaining number of Iraqi soldiers serving the Baghdad leadership is hard to pin down, but the US military says it’s somewhere in the 50-130-thousand range. Another problem confronting the Iraqi government is that ISIS militants pay their terrorist soldiers more money than the Iraqi government pays its Army. Adding fuel to the chaos, the Iraqi government is letting Shia militias, some from Iran; fight the various Sunnis-fronts in multiple Middle East countries, further exposing allegiances within fractured countries.
Nevertheless the Middle East is clinging to borders Sykes-Piquet drew in 1919 after defeating the Ottoman Empire, and it is in the midst of redrawing its borders and no amount of money the US throws into the fray will stop that process from unfolding. US Defense Secretary Ash Carter also admitted that even though Iraq’s military possessed substantial advantages in both numbers and equipment, they were unable to prevent ISIS forces from capturing a third of its country.
According to Foreign Policy magazine, “The Iraqi Army barely exists. Officers and troops seem prone to confusion at best– panic at worst. Few Sunni Arab soldiers remain in regular Army units, rendering them unfit for security duties in Sunni-majority areas. Meanwhile, the Islamic State’s rampage continues: In mid-May, they took the city of Ramadi, Anbar province’s capital, from government forces.”
And in a bout of delusion, White House press secretary Josh Earnest explained the President’s new strategy. “These new advisors will work to build capacity of Iraqi forces, including local tribal fighters, to improve their ability to plan, lead, and conduct operations against ISIL in eastern Anbar under the command of the Prime Minister. The President has also directed the expedited delivery of essential equipment and materiel in coordination with the central government to Iraqi forces, including Peshmerga (Kurds of north Iraq) and tribal fighters, operating under Iraqi command, to ensure that our partners have the equipment needed to effectively fight ISIL/ISIS.” Clearly omitting to mention the $27 billion in equipment and weapons already seized by ISIL from the Iraqi army.
However, shortly before this decision, the President said, “One of the things that we’re still seeing is, in Iraq, places where we’ve got more training capacity that (sic) we’ve got recruits… part of my discussion with [Iraqi] Prime Minister Abadi was how do we make sure we get more troops in?”
But he admitted he had no plan to help the Iraqi government and laughably tried to blame the Defense Department. “When a finalized plan is presented to me by the Pentagon, then I will share it with the American people. We don’t yet have a complete strategy because it requires commitments on the part of the Iraqis as well, about how recruitment takes place, how that training takes place. And so the details of that are not yet worked out.” It’s clear the White House, nearly seven years into its term, has no idea how the military operates and the constant number of contingency plans it keeps on the shelves for any military scenario that may arise.
After spending $25 billion to train the Iraq Army it melted away. Secretary Carter attributed the failure to this; “the main problem with the Iraqi military is the problem with Iraq as a whole—the country effectively no longer exists as a unified state. Kurdistan, for all intents and purposes, acts as an independent country. Much of the Sunni population lives in territories controlled by ISIS. The rump Iraqi government, meanwhile, operates in close cooperation with Iran, who funds Shia militias that act as a paramilitary force. The Iraqi military, then, is less a cause of the country’s failures than a reflection of them.”
Keeping this in mind, shouldn’t the US government consider the lives of the additional US service members? Is it possible their presence will only offer more targets for ISIS terrorists group? Privately, military leaders are suggesting the more US advisors on the ground will only expedite the odds that ISIS will capture a US military service member, and publically torture him/her like the Jordanian pilot earlier this year.
Hasn’t the US given the Middle East ample opportunities to adopt a western-style government? Former first lady Laura Bush was an ardent proponent of educating little girls in the Middle East, a laudable goal, but this week the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan’s Reconstruction (SIGAR) reported that USAID’s support for Afghanistan’s education sector, totaling approximately $769 million has been embezzled. “These allegations suggest that the U.S. and other donors may have paid for schools that students do not attend and for the salaries of teachers who do not teach,” SIGAR inquiry report concluded.
So, to paraphrase Colonel Jessup in A Few Good Men, “please tell me you have something more …”
Read the previous story: Yemen moves to join Libya and Syria league of dysfunction
More regime change train series here.
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