It seems I’m no longer alone with my rants against the “Iraqis are taking the lead” meme now in vogue in the Western media. Anthony Cordesman and Adam Mausner of CSIS have just issued a devastating analysis on Iraqi force development, basically calling the glowing reports on the Iraqi Army’s performance what they are — bullshit.
MNF-I and the GOI continue to provide misleading and optimistic public reporting and metrics on ISF performance. The ISF is making progress in many areas, but MNF-I and GOI reporting and metrics sharply understate the real-world timelines and efforts needed to deal with problems and delays in shaping credible force plans, getting proper training facilities and throughput, embedding competent advisors, providing effective equipment, getting competent Iraqi leaders and force retention, and dealing with ethnic and sectarian issues. Official reporting on the MOI and the IP in particular is extremely misleading.
These problems have created false expectations and demands within the US Congress, as well as unrealistic budgets and plans that require progress that cannot be achieved for several years to come.
To date, the Department of Defense reporting on the progress in Iraqi forces development has been fundamentally misleading and lacking in integrity, and has done a major disservice in leading the Congress and others to have unrealistic expectations of what can be accomplished within a given timeframe.
The bad news was the ISF showed only limited capability to plan and execute a major operation on its own, suffered from serious desertions and failures, had to turn to the US and UK for emergency support, and needed an Iranian-brokered compromise to deal with Sadr. The good news is that the ISF eventually was able to field a large number of troops, did not face sustained resistance from elements of the JAM or other forces, and has been able to occupy and control the city since the cease fire.
In Sadr City, too, the only good news had nothing to do with the IA’s offensive capability:
Only US forces were ready to deal with the threat posed by the Mahdi Army (JAM). The government again had to turn to the Coalition for military support and to Iran for help in brokering a ceasefire deal with Sadr. Once again, however, the ISF was able to successfully occupy Sadr City once a ceasefire was agreed to.
On the National Police:
This ongoing program has clearly had some positive outcomes, and has reduced the previous Shi‘ite dominance of the force and resulted in the firing of a huge number of the NP‘s senior commanders. Many elements still, however, present problems, and it remains to be seen whether the reform program can make the NP a truly non-sectarian force.
On the Sons of Iraq:
While MNSTC-I believes that 20-25% of the Sons of Iraq will be absorbed into the ISFii, progress has been slow in this area. What will become of the other 75-80% of these heavily armed men, accustomed to their relatively high salaries, is also a major concern. Unless jobs and economic opportunities are found for the entire force, and Sunnis and mixed tribal groups come to trust in government help and funding, the gains this force has made will be lost and many elements could become hostile to the central government.
And so on.
I think their analysis on Mosul is too optimistic, and I hate the way they use the term “al-Qaeda”, but all in all, this is a fantastic report.
Read Full Post »