Iraqi Army Not Ready For At Least Two

Iraqi Army Not Ready for at Least Two Years
Zarqawi’s group rejects Talabani Parlay Offer

Violence in Iraq on Sunday left 2 American and one British soldier dead, along with some 12 Iraqis, bringing the weekend death toll to around 120.

An Iraqi poll suggests that a great many Iraqis want Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari to continue in office after the December 15 elections. Jaafari is widely reviled in the street by journalists and cab drivers, but if this poll is right he may be more popular than was earlier believed.

The Washington Post does an overview of the reconstitution of the junior officer corps of the Iraqi military since August, when the government advertised for former officers at or below the rank of major to rejoin the Iraqi army.

Ellen Knickmeyer reports that “The Defense Ministry’s call for junior officers from the old army has drawn applications from 3,769 officers, with 2,662 of them accepted . . .” This development of the past 3 months had been little reported. Most of these junior officers presumably fought against the US invasion of Iraq, and they will probably be disproportionately Sunni Arab. (Some 20 percent of Iraqis are Sunni Arab, so if, say, 50 percent of these officers are, that would be disproportionate. There were Shiite officers, though they would have been vetted to make sure they were not from religious families or even provinces.)

One problem this article notes is that a lot of the infantrymen are Kurds, often so young that they mainly grew up under the no-fly zone and the Kurdistan regional government, which did not make schoolchildren learn Arabic. So whether the officers can actually give an order that would be understood is in doubt. And, former ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith, who spent part of the summer in Baghdad observing such things, maintained here not so long ago that there are only really 40,000 Iraqi troops that would amount to much, and we know that most of them could not fight effectively on their own. (The article reports the US estimate of over 100,000 Iraqi troops, which is certainly an exaggeration if one meens by “troops” persons who can and would fight in military encounters.)

Another mystery is why Gen. David Petraeus was transferred back to the US in September. He was the great hope for rebuilding the Iraqi military. Calling back up the junior officers was his idea. But then somehow he was reassigned to the US. This development is strange and has never been explained that I have seen.

And, surely vice premier Ahmad Chalabi and his US neocon allies deeply disliked Petraeus’s plan. They were the ones who favored thorough-going de-Baathification. How did the plan nevertheless get implemented? Who is backing it in Iraq? Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari?

The Washington Post ends with a quote from the Sunni Arab captain who had fought against the US in 2003:

“In Taji, Alwan, the Sunni army captain, was ready to set a timeline for significant U.S. withdrawal. “Two years,” Alwan said. If the Americans pull out before that — before the government is steady, the constitution set and the army trained — it “means we would go to civil conflict,” he said.”

Meanwhile, President Jalal Talabani said at the Cairo reconciliation conference that he would be willing to meet with leaders of the armed resistance in Iraq, most of them Sunni Arabs.

Al-Quds al-Arabi says that the Sunni fundamentalist fighters immediately denounced Talabani and refused to engage him in a dialogue.

Half of GIs who are medically evacuated from Iraq are suffering from bad backs, according to USA Today. The army has begun deploying chiropractors with the troops.

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