Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Collapse of the Iraqi Army

The Times has finally sent a reporter who knows something about war to find out what happened to the Iraqi army during last month's rapid advance by ISIS. I don't know anything about C.J. Chivers, but based on this one story he or she understands one of the crucial things about warfare: leadership is everything. No matter how brave and determined they are, soldiers will not accomplish anything if their officers are cowardly or incompetent. Based on the testimony of these soldiers, their leadership was both:
“We were sold, it was a sellout,” said one of the enlisted men, as a crowd of his fellow guards nodded in agreement. “Everyone here was willing to fight.” The account of the Ninth Brigade of Iraq’s border guards, confirmed by an official who witnessed many of the events, is a portrait of generals unfit to lead in war and of mismanagement, incompetence and ultimately treachery under the patronage of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.
The Brigade was sent into the desert to reinforce a key position on the Syrian border, but they were sent without water or food, and none was ever supplied:
With supplies almost gone, the brigade commander, Brig. Gen. Sadiq Rasheed Abdilal, left Qaim to complain to senior officers, his troops said. They have not heard from him since. The troops said he had been arrested and his cellphone switched off.

Officers on the brigade staff declined to discuss their commander’s whereabouts. One colonel offered only that he left for “business in Baghdad.” A spokesman for the Fourth Division said that General Abdilal remained at work, but refused to provide a way to reach him.

On June 22, the troops said, they received an abrupt order to abandon Qaim and head to Waleed. They said they were astounded, because Qaim was essential to Iraq’s defense.
Some of the soldiers actually chased down their division commander and tried to force him to lead them into battle, but he fled.

Now I ask you, is this a government the U.S. should spend billions to defend? No amount of aid or airpower can sustain a regime that is fundamentally unconcerned with fighting its enemies. This is exactly the situation we blundered into in Vietnam, and I cannot imagine why we would want to repeat that disaster.

The problems in Iraq are the making of the Iraqi government, and as far as I am concerned they can dig out of this mess themselves.

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