By Sal Bommarito
Since the ISIS war began, many people have been asking why Iraqi soldiers are incapable of defending their own country, “despite [receiving] roughly $25 billion worth of American training and equipment over the past 10 years and from far more from the Iraqi treasury.” Has this money been squandered? Iraqi forces dropped their weapons the first time they encountered ISIS and many soldiers deserted. It’s hard to believe our military officials when they say the Iraqi Army was in battle ready condition after the U.S. withdrew troops.
A New York Times front-page article presents the reasons for the pathetic state of the Iraqi military. For starters, the Times told of three generals that are indicative of the current state of military readiness. One general is known as “chicken guy” because he sells his troops’ poultry provisions. Another general is “arak guy” because he drinks anise-flavored liquor while leading his men. And then there is “General Defta,” who sells army commissions for personal profit.
“Now the pattern of corruption and patronage in the Iraqi [military] threatens to undermine a new American-led effort to drive out the extremists.” U.S. military leaders know the Iraqi Army is an ineffective force, not likely to ever be able to provide necessary ground force support. Are our generals frightened to tell the president that his dependency on Iraq soldiers is a mistake? Are the generals concerned about being drummed out of the military if they speak the truth? In the meantime, bombing sorties are happening every day to little avail, and ISIS fighters are busy usurping more territory and beheading all those who resist.
The president wants the Iraqi Army to fend for itself and be the conduit for all weapons provided by the U.S for a “counteroffensive.” This includes $1.3 billion for armaments and $24.1 million for tribal members assistance. One might ask, what happened to the aforementioned $25 billion? The Times article implies that much of it is lining the pockets of corrupt generals and politicians as they sell U.S. equipment and supplies on the black market. Occasionally, U.S. weapons end up in the hands of ISIS fighters.
The article goes into detail about the amount of corruption in Iraq. All sorts of reasons for it are delineated. The incompetence the former Iraqi leader is mentioned along with the impact of continuing sectarian fighting. Nevertheless, few charges have been filed against the criminals. Only recently has the new Iraqi leader replaced 36 high-ranking soldiers with his cronies.
Are U.S. advisors supposed to deal with Iraqi military corruption or focus on the enemy? Can 3,000 American soldiers overlay a new ethos onto the Iraqi military complex? And if that’s ever accomplished will the soldiers be ready to go toe to toe with the ISIS animals?
At first, I was hesitant to push for U.S. ground forces. I still am apprehensive that putting our soldiers in harm’s way will enable the U.S. to bring peace to the region even if ISIS is destroyed. But, if the U.S. continues to bomb, fritter away money sent to Iraq and hope an efficient Iraqi ground force somehow evolves, ISIS will remain a huge threat to the region.
Congress must drill deep into this situation and demand an accurate accounting from U.S. generals. I believe the American people are being buffaloed about the progress of the war.