In a sobering account of the Iraqi Army’s combat readiness, The New York Times’ Campbell Robertson reports from Khan Bani Saad:
While Americans and Iraqi civilians alike are increasingly eager to see combat operations turned over to the Iraqi Army, interviews with more than a dozen Iraqi soldiers and officers in Diyala Province, at the outset of a large-scale operation against insurgents led by Iraqis but backed by Americans, reveal a military confident of its progress but unsure of its readiness.
The army has made huge leaps forward, most of the soldiers agreed, and can hold its own in battles with the insurgency with little or no American support. But almost all said the time when the Iraqi Army can stand alone as a national defense force is still years away.
‘You can’t go from a lieutenant all the way to a general at once,’ said one Iraqi officer who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media. ‘The army needs more time.’
In its rush to (re)announce mission accomplished, the Bush administration, with considerable help from MNF-I, has been pushing a narrative about the ISF finally “standing up”. Here’s what LTC Muhammad Najim Khairi of the Third Battalion of the IA’s 19th Brigade thinks:
“We are too many years behind other countries. We need the coalition forces until 2015.”
And what happens if the Americans leave earlier?
“Believe me”, says COL Ali Mahmoud, commander of the 19th Brigade’s Third Battalion. “There will be a big disaster.”