Tuesday, November 29, 2005

For this empty promise so many died!


Title: WHY IRAQ HAS NO ARMY , By: Fallows, James,
Atlantic, 10727825, Dec2005, Vol. 296, Issue 5
Database: Academic Search Premier



An orderly exit from Iraq depends on the development
of a viable Iraqi security force, but the Iraqis
aren't even close. The Bush administration doesn't
take the problem seriously — and it never has

When Saddam Hussein fell, the Iraqi people gained
freedom. What they didn't get was public order.
Looting began immediately, and by the time it abated,
signs of an insurgency had appeared. Four months after
the invasion the first bomb that killed more than one
person went off; two years later, through this past
summer, multiplefatality bombings occurred on average
once a day. The targets were not just U.S. troops but
Iraqi civilians and, more important, Iraqis who would
bring order to the country. The first major attack on
Iraq's own policemen occurred in October of 2003, when
a car bomb killed ten people at a Baghdad police
station. This summer an average often Iraqi policemen
or soldiers were killed each day. It is true, as U.S.
officials often point out, that the violence is
confined mainly to four of Iraq's eighteen provinces.
But these four provinces contain the nation's capital
and just under half its people.

The crucial need to improve security and order in Iraq
puts the United States in an impossible position. It
can't honorably leave Iraq — as opposed to simply
evacuating Saigon-style — so long as its military must
provide most of the manpower, weaponry, intelligence
systems, and strategies being used against the
insurgency. But it can't sensibly stay when the very
presence of its troops is a worsening irritant to the
Iraqi public and a rallying point for nationalist
opponents — to say nothing of the growing pressure in
the United States for withdrawal.

Therefore one question now trumps others in America's
Iraq policy: whether the United States can foster the
development of viable Iraqi security forces, both
military and police units, to preserve order in a new
Iraqi state.

The Bush administration's policy toward Iraq is based
on the premise that this job can be done — and done
soon enough to relieve the pressures created by the
large-scale U.S. presence in Iraq. These include
strains on the U.S. military from its lone overseas
assignments, mounting political resistance in America
because of the cost and casualties of the war, and
resentment in Iraq about the open-ended presence of
foreign occupation troops. This is why President Bush
and other officials say so often, "As Iraqis stand up,
we will stand down." American maximalists who want to
transform Iraq into a democracy, American minimalists
who want chiefly to get U.S. troops out as soon as
possible, and everyone in between share an interest in
the successful creation of Iraq's own military.

If the United States can foster the development of a
sufficiently stable political system in Iraq, and if
it can help train, equip, and support military and
police forces to defend that system, then American
policy has a chance of succeeding. The United States
can pull its own troops out of Iraq, knowing that it
has left something sustainable behind. But if neither
of those goals is realistic — if Iraqi politics
remains chaotic and the Iraqi military remains
overwhelmed by the insurgent threat — then the
American strategy as a whole is doomed.

As Iraqi politicians struggle over terms of a new
constitution, Americans need to understand the
military half of the long-term U.S. strategy: when and
whether Iraqi forces can "stand up."

Early in the occupation American officials acted as if
the emergence of an Iraqi force would be a natural
process. "In less than six months we have gone from
zero Iraqis providing security to their country to
close to a hundred thousand Iraqis," Donald Rumsfeld
said in October of 2003. "Indeed, the progress has
been so swift that … it will not be long before [Iraqi
security forces] will be the largest and outnumber the
U.S. forces, and it shouldn't be too long thereafter
that they will outnumber all coalition forces
combined." By the end of this year the count of Iraqi
security forces should indeed surpass the total of
American, British, and other coalition troops in Iraq.
Police officers, controlled by Iraq's Ministry of the
Interior, should number some 145,000. An additional
85,000 members of Iraq's army, plus tiny contingents
in its navy and air force, should be ready for duty,
under the control of Iran's Ministry of Defense. Since
early this year Iraqi units have fought more and more
frequently alongside U.S. troops.

But most assessments from outside the administration
have been far more downbeat than Rumsfeld's. Time and
again since the training effort began, inspection
teams from Congress, the Government Accountability
Office (GAO), think tanks, and the military itself
have visited Iraq and come to the same conclusion: the
readiness of many Iraqi units is low, their loyalty
and morale are questionable, regional and ethnic
divisions are sharp, their reported numbers overstate
their real effectiveness.

The numbers are at best imperfect measures. Early this
year the American-led training command shifted its
emphasis from simple head counts of Iraqi troops to an
assessment of unit readiness based on a four-part
classification scheme. Level 1, the highest, was for
"fully capable" units — those that could plan,
execute, and maintain counterinsurgency operations
with no help whatsoever. Last summer Pentagon
officials said that three Iraqi units, out of a total
of 115 police and army battalions, had reached this
level. In September the U.S. military commander in
Iraq, Army General George Casey, lowered that estimate
to one.

Level 2 was for "capable" units, which can fight
against insurgents as long as the United States
provides operational assistance (air support,
logistics, communications, and so on). Marine General
Peter Pace, who is now the chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, said last summer that just under one
third of Iraqi army units had reached this level. A
few more had by fall. Level 3, for "partially capable"
units, included those that could provide extra
manpower in efforts planned, led, supplied, and
sustained by Americans. The remaining two thirds of
Iraqi army units, and half the police, were in this
category. Level 4, "incapable" units, were those that
were of no help whatsoever in fighting the insurgency.
Half of all police units were so classified.

In short, if American troops disappeared tomorrow,
Iraq would have essentially no independent security
force. Half its policemen would be considered
worthless, and the other half would depend on external
help for organization, direction, support. Two thirds
of the army would be in the same dependent position,
and even the better-prepared one third would suffer
significant limitations without foreign help.

The moment when Iraqis can lift much of the burden
from American troops is not yet in sight.
Understanding whether this situation might improve
requires understanding what the problems have been so

Over the summer and fall I asked a large number of
people why Iraq in effect still had no army, and what,
realistically, the United States could expect in the
future. Most were Americans, but I also spoke with
experts from Iraq, Britain, Israel, France, and other
countries. Most had served in the military; a large
number had recently been posted in Iraq, and a sizable
contingent had fought in Vietnam. Almost all those
still on active duty insisted that I not use their
names. The Army's press office did arrange for me to
speak with Lieutenant General Dave Petraeus, who was
just completing his year's assignment as commander of
the training effort in Iraq, before being replaced by
Martin Dempsey, another three-star Army general. But
it declined requests for interviews with Petraeus's
predecessor, Major General Paul Eaton, or others who
had been involved in training programs during the
first months of the occupation, or with lower-ranking
officers and enlisted men. Many of them wanted to talk
or correspond anyway.

What I heard amounted to this: The United States has
recently figured out a better approach to training
Iraqi troops. Early this year it began putting more
money, and more of its best people, on the job. As a
result, more Iraqi units are operating effectively,
and fewer are collapsing or deserting under pressure.
In 2004, during major battles in Fallujah, Mosul, and
elsewhere, large percentages of the Iraqi soldiers and
policemen supposedly fighting alongside U.S. forces
simply fled when the shooting began. But since the
Iraqi elections last January "there has not been a
single case of Iraqi security forces melting away or
going out the back door of the police station,"
Petraeus told me. Iraqi recruits keep showing up at
police and military enlistment stations, even as
service in police and military units has become more

But as the training and numbers are getting somewhat
better, the problems created by the insurgency are
getting worse — and getting worse faster than the
Iraqi forces are improving. Measured against what it
would take to leave Iraqis fully in charge of their
own security, the United States and the Iraqi
government are losing ground. Absent a dramatic change
— in the insurgency, in American efforts, in resolving
political differences in Iraq — America's options will
grow worse, not better, as time goes on.

Here is a sampling of worried voices:

"The current situation will NEVER allow for an
effective ISF [Iraqi Security Force] to be created," a
young Marine officer who will not let me use his name
wrote in an e-mail after he returned from Iraq this
summer. "We simply do not have enough people to train
forces. If we shift personnel from security duties to
training, we release newly trained ISF into
ever-worsening environs."

"A growing number of U.S. military officers in Iraq
and those who have returned from the region are
voicing concern that the nascent Iraqi army will fall
apart if American forces are drawn down in the
foreseeable future," Elaine Grossman, of the
well-connected newsletter Inside the Pentagon,
reported in September.

"U.S. trainers have made a heroic effort and have
achieved some success with some units," Ahmed Hashim,
of the Naval War College, told me in an e-mail. "But
the Iraqi Security Forces are almost like a black
hole. You put a lot in and little comes back out."

"I have to tell you that corruption is eating the guts
of this counter-insurgency effort," a civilian wrote
in an e-mail from Baghdad. Money meant to train new
troops was leaking out to terrorists, he said. He
empathized with "Iraqi officers here who see and yet
are powerless to stop it because of the corrupt
ministers and their aides."

"On the current course we will have two options," I
was told by a Marine lieutenant colonel who had
recently served in Iraq and who prefers to remain
anonymous. "We can lose in Iraq and destroy our army,
or we can just lose."

The officer went on to say that of course neither
option was acceptable, which is why he thought it so
urgent to change course. By "destroy our army" he
meant that it would take years for the U.S. military
to recover from the strain on manpower, equipment, and
— most of all — morale that staying in Iraq would put
on it. (Retired Army General Barry McCaffrey had this
danger in mind when he told Time magazine last winter
that "the Army's wheels are going to come off in the
next twenty-four months" if it remained in Iraq.)
"Losing" in Iraq would mean failing to overcome the
violent insurgency. A continuing insurgency would, in
the view of the officer I spoke with, sooner or later
mean the country's fracture in a bloody civil war.
That, in turn, would mean the emergence of a central
"Sunni-stan" more actively hostile to the United
States than Saddam Hussein's Iraq ever was, which
could in the next decade be what the Taliban of
Afghanistan was in the 1990s: a haven for al-Qaeda and
related terrorists. "In Vietnam we just lost," the
officer said. "This would be losing with

How the Iraq story turns out will not be known for
years, but based on what is now knowable, the bleak
prospect today is the culmination of a drama's first
three acts. The first act involves neglect and
delusion. Americans — and Iraqis — will spend years
recovering from decisions made or avoided during the
days before and after combat began, and through the
first year of the occupation. The second act involves
a tentative approach to a rapidly worsening challenge
during the occupation's second year. We are now in the
third act, in which Americans and Iraqis are
correcting earlier mistakes but too slowly and too

As for the fourth act, it must resolve the tensions
created in the previous three.

"It was clear what might happen in a highly
militarized society once the regime fell," Anthony
Cordesman wrote recently. Cordesman, of the Center for
Strategic and International Studies, in Washington,
has produced an authoritative series of reports of the
new Iraqi military, available at the CSIS Web site.
"The U.S. chose to largely ignore these indicators."

In explaining the early failures that plagued the
occupation, Cordesman cited factors that have become
familiar: an unrealistic expectation of how long
Iraqis would welcome a foreign force; a deliberate
decision to hold down the size of the invading army;
too little preparation for postwar complications; and
so on. Before the invasion Saddam Hussein had employed
at least half a million soldiers and policemen to keep
the lid on Iraq. The United States went in with less
than a third that many troops, and because virtually
none of them spoke Arabic, they could rarely detect
changes in the Iraqi mood or exert influence except by

But the explanation of early training problems also
leads in some less familiar directions.

One view about why things went so wrong so fast is
espoused by Ahmed Chalabi, onetime leader of the Iraqi
National Congress, and American supporters of the war
such as James Woolsey, a former CIA director, and
Richard Perle, a former chairman of the Defense Policy
Board. "My view is pretty straightforward," Woolsey
told me. "We lost five years, thanks to the State
Department and the CIA." The years in question were
from 1998, when Congress passed and Bill Clinton
signed the Iraq Liberation Act, advocating regime
change in Iraq, to 2003, when U.S. troops moved on
Baghdad. The act provided $97 million for arms and for
training expatriate Iraqi forces. "All we had to do
was use some of that money to train mainly Kurdish and
Shia units to fight with us, like the Free French in
1944," Woolsey said. The main counterargument is that
a Kurdish-Shiite invading army would have made it even
harder to deal with Sunnis after Saddam fell.

A different view is strongly held by others among the
war's early advocates within the Bush administration.
In discussions with former members of the
administration I was told they felt truly bad about
only one intelligence failure. It did not concern WMD
stockpiles in Iraq; the world's other intelligence
agencies all made the same mistake, my informants
said, and Saddam Hussein would have kept trying to
build them anyway. What bothered them was that they
did not grasp that he was planning all along to have
his army melt away and re-emerge as a guerrilla force
once the Americans took over. In this view the war
against Saddam's "bitter enders" is still going on,
and the new Iraqi forces are developing as fast or as
slowly as anyone could expect.

But here is the view generally accepted in the
military: the war's planners, military and civilian,
took the postwar transition too much for granted; then
they made a grievous error in suddenly dismissing all
members of the Iraqi army; and then they were too busy
with other emergencies and routines to think seriously
about the new Iraqi army.

"Should we have had training teams ready to go the day
we crossed the border?" asks Lieutenant General Jim
Mattis, who commanded the 1st Marine Division during
the assault on Iraq (and whom Harrison Ford is
scheduled to play in a film about the battle of
Fallujah). "Of course! The military has one duty in a
situation like this, and that is to provide security
for the indigenous people. It's the windbreak behind
which everything else can happen." Mattis argued
before the war that teams of civic advisers should
have been ready to flood in: mayors from North America
and Europe to work with Iraqi mayors, police chiefs
with police chiefs, all with the goal of preparing the
locals to provide public order. "But we didn't do it,
and the bottom line was the loss of security."

Many other people suggest many other sins of omission
in preparations for the war. But at least one aspect
of the transition was apparently given careful
thought: how to handle the Iraqi military once it had
surrendered or been defeated. Unfortunately, that
careful thought was ignored or overruled.

After years of misuse under Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi
military had severe problems, including bad morale,
corrupt leadership, shoddy equipment, and a reputation
for brutality. But the regular army numbered some
400,000 members, and if any of them could be put to
use, there would be less work for Americans.

By late 2002, after Congress voted to authorize war if
necessary, Jay Garner, a retired three-star Army
general, was thinking about how he might use some of
these soldiers if the war took place and he became the
first viceroy of Iraq. Garner, who had supervised
Kurdish areas after the Gulf War, argued for
incorporating much of the military rank-and-file into
America's occupation force. Stripping off the top
leadership would be more complicated than with, say,
the Japanese or German army after World War II,
because Iraq's army had more than 10,000 generals.
(The U.S. Army, with about the same number of troops,
has around 300 generals.) But, I was told by a former
senior official who was closely involved in making the
plans, "the idea was that on balance it was much
better to keep them in place and try to put them to
work, public works-style, on reconstruction, than not
to." He continued, "The advantages of using them were:
They had organization. They had equipment, especially
organic transport [jeeps, trucks], which let them get
themselves from place to place. They had a structure.
But it was a narrow call, because of all the

Garner intended to put this plan into action when he
arrived in Baghdad, in April of 2003. He told me
recently that there were few signs of the previous
army when he first arrived. "But we sent out feelers,
and by the first week in May we were getting a lot of
responses back. We had a couple of Iraqi officers come
to me and say, 'We could bring this division back,
that division.' We began to have dialogues and

Then, on May 23, came a decision that is likely to be
debated for years: Coalition Provisional Authority
Order Number 2, to disband the Iraqi military and
simply send its members home without pay.

"I always begin with the proposition that this
argument is entirely irrelevant," Walter Slocombe, the
man usually given credit or blame for initiating the
decision, told me in the summer. During the Clinton
administration Slocombe was undersecretary for policy
at the Pentagon, the job later made famous by Douglas
Feith. A month after the fall of Baghdad, Slocombe
went to the Green Zone as a security adviser to Paul
Bremer, who had just replaced Garner as the ranking
American civilian.

On arrival Slocombe advocated that the Coalition
Provisional Authority, or CPA, should face the reality
that the previous Iraqi army had disappeared. "There
was no intact Iraqi force to 'disband,'" Slocombe
said. "There was no practical way to reconstitute an
Iraqi force based on the old army any more rapidly
than has happened. The facilities were just destroyed,
and the conscripts were gone and not coming back." The
Bush administration officials who had previously
instructed Garner to reconstitute the military
endorsed Slocombe's view: the negative aspects of
consorting with a corrupt, brutal force were still
there, and the positives seemed to be gone. "All the
advantages they had ran away with the soldiers," the
senior official involved in the plans said. "The
organization, the discipline, the organic transport.
The facts had changed."

The arguments about the decision are bitter, and they
turn on two points: whether the Iraqi army had in fact
irreversibly "disbanded itself," as Slocombe contends,
and whether the American authorities could have found
some way to avoid turning the hundreds of thousands of
discharged soldiers into an armed and resentful
opposition group. "I don't buy the argument that there
was no army to cashier," says Barak Salmoni, of the
Marine Corps Training and Education Command. "It may
have not been showing up to work, but I can assure you
that they would have if there had been dollars on the
table. And even if the Iraqi army did disband, we
didn't have to alienate them" — mainly by stopping
their pay. Several weeks later the Americans announced
that they would resume some army stipends, but by then
the damage had been done.

Garner was taken by surprise by the decision, and has
made it clear that he considers it a mistake. I asked
him about the frequently voiced argument that there
was no place to house the army because the barracks
had been wrecked. "We could have put people in
hangars," he said. "That is where our troops were."

The most damaging criticism of the way the decision
was made comes from Paul Hughes, who was then an Army
colonel on Garner's staff. "Neither Jay Garner nor I
had been asked about the wisdom of this decree,"
Hughes recalls. He was the only person from Garner's
administration then talking with Iraqi military
representatives about the terms of their
re-engagement. On the eve of the order to disband, he
says, more than 100,000 Iraqi soldiers had submitted
forms to receive a one-time $20 emergency payment,
from funds seized from Saddam's personal accounts,
which they would show up to collect.

"My effort was not intended to re-activate the Iraqi
military," Hughes says. "Whenever the Iraqi officers
asked if they could re-form their units, I was quite
direct with them that if they did, they would be
attacked and destroyed. What we wanted to do was
arrange the process by which these hundred thousand
soldiers would register with [the occupation
authorities], tell us what they knew, draw their pay,
and then report to selected sites. CPA Order Number
Two simply stopped any effort to move forward, as if
the Iraqi military had ceased to exist. [Walt
Slocombe's] statement about the twenty dollars still
sticks in my brain: 'We don't pay armies we defeated.'
My Iraqi friends tell me that this decision was what
really spurred the nationalists to join the infant
insurgency. We had advertised ourselves as liberators
and turned on these people without so much as a second

The argument will go on. But about what happened next
there is little dispute. Having eliminated the main
existing security force, and having arrived with fewer
troops than past experience in the Balkans, Germany,
and Japan would suggest for so large a territory,
American officials essentially wasted the next six
months. By the time they thought seriously about
reconstituting Iraq's military and police forces, the
insurgency was under way and the challenge of
pacifying Iraq had magnified.

There is no single comprehensive explanation for what
went wrong. After the tension leading up to the war
and the brilliant, brief victory, political and even
military leaders seemed to lose interest, or at least
intensity. "Once Baghdad was taken, Tommy Franks
checked out," Victor O'Reilly, who has written
extensively about the U.S. military, told me. "He
seemed to be thinking mainly about his book." Several
people I spoke with volunteered this view of Franks,
who was the CENTCOM commander during the war. (Franks
did not respond to interview requests, including those
sent through his commercially minded Web site,
TommyFranks.com.) In retrospect the looting was the
most significant act of the first six months after the
war. It degraded daily life, especially in Baghdad,
and it made the task of restoring order all the more
difficult for the U.S. or Iraqi forces that would
eventually undertake it. But at the time neither
political nor military leaders treated it as urgent.
Weeks went by before U.S. troops effectively

In June of 2003, as the looting was dying down but the
first signs of insurgent violence were appearing, the
CSIS sent a team of experts who had worked in past
occupations. They were alarmed by what they saw.
"There is a general sense of steady deterioration in
the security situation, in Baghdad, Mosul, and
elsewhere," they reported. "Virtually every Iraqi and
most CPA and coalition military officials as well as
most contractors we spoke to cited the lack of public
safety as their number one concern." At that time, the
team pointed out, some 5,000 U.S. troops were tied
down guarding buildings in Baghdad, with two and a
half battalions, representing well over a thousand
troops, guarding the American headquarters alone.

Anthony Cordesman, of the CSIS, says there was never a
conscious decision to delay or ignore training, but at
any given moment in the occupation's first months some
other goal always seemed more urgent or more
interesting. Through the first six months of the
occupation capturing Saddam Hussein seemed to be the
most important step toward ending the resistance. His
two sons were killed in July; he himself was captured
in December; and the insurgency only grew. Along the
way the manhunt relied on detention, interrogation,
and break-down-doors-at-night techniques that hastened
resentment of the U.S. presence. "The search for
Saddam colored everything," Victor O'Reilly told me.
"It is my belief that the insurgency was substantially
created by the tactics used by the occupying force,
who were initially the saviors, in their search for
Saddam. Ambitious generals, who should have known
better, created a very aggressive do-what-is-necessary
culture. Frustrated troops, with no familiarity with
the language or culture, naturally make mistakes. And
in a tribal society if you shoot one person it spreads
right through the system."

The hunt for WMD troves, conducted in the same way as
the search for Saddam and by troops with the same
inability to understand what was being said around
them, had a similar embittering effect. The
junior-level soldiers and Marines I interviewed
consistently emphasized how debilitating the language
barrier was. Having too few interpreters, they were
left to communicate their instructions with gestures
and sign language. The result was that American troops
were blind and deaf to much of what was going on
around them, and the Iraqis were often terrified.

General Mattis had stressed to his troops the
importance of not frightening civilians, so as not to
turn those civilians into enemies. He, too, emphasizes
the distractions in the first year that diminished the
attention paid to building an Iraqi security force.
"There was always something," he told me. "Instead of
focusing on security, we were trying to get oil
pipelines patched, electrical grids back into
position, figure out who the engineers were we could
trust, since some of them hated us so much they would
do sabotage work. It was going to take a while."

When Americans did think about a new Iraqi army, they
often began with fears that it might become too strong
too fast. "Everybody assumed that within Iraq it would
be peaceful," says T. X. Hammes, the author of The
Sling and the Stone, who was then in Iraq as a Marine
Corps colonel. "So the biggest concern was reassuring
all of Iraq's neighbors that Iraq would not be a
threat. One of the ways you do that is by building a
motor infantry force with no logistics" — that is, an
army that can't sustain any large-scale offensive
operation. Such an army might assuage concerns in
Syria and Iran, but it would do little to provide
internal security, and would not be prepared for
domestic counterinsurgency work. (This tension has not
been resolved: to this day the Iraqi government
complains that the United States will not help it get
adequate tanks, armored vehicles, and artillery.)
Corrupt use of U.S. aid and domestic Iraqi resources
was a constant and destructive factor. Last August the
Knight Ridder newspapers revealed that Iraq's Board of
Supreme Audit had surveyed arms contracts worth $1.3
billion and concluded that about $500 million had
simply disappeared in payoffs, kickbacks, and fraud.

Training the police would be as big a challenge as
training the army. "There was no image of a
non-corrupt police force anywhere in the country,"
Mattis says. And to make matters more difficult, the
effort began just as the police were coming under
attack from insurgents' bombs and grenades.

Throughout the occupation, but most of all in these
early months, training suffered from a "B Team"
problem. Before the fighting there was a huge glamour
gap in the Pentagon between people working on
so-called Phase III — the "kinetic" stage, the
currently fashionable term for what used to be called
"combat" — and those consigned to thinking about Phase
IV, postwar reconstruction. The gap persisted after
Baghdad fell. Nearly every military official I spoke
with said that formal and informal incentives within
the military made training Iraqi forces seem like
second-tier work.

There were exceptions. The Green Berets and other
elite units of the Special Forces have long prided
themselves on being able to turn ragtag foreign armies
into effective fighting units. But there weren't
enough Special Forces units to go around, and the
mainstream Army and Marine Corps were far less
enthusiastic about training assignments. Especially at
the start, training missions were filled mostly by
people who couldn't get combat postings, and by
members of the Reserves and the National Guard.

Walter Slocombe told me that there could have been a
larger structural attempt to deal with the B-Team
issue. "If we knew then what we know now," he said —
that is, if people in charge had understood that
public order would be the biggest postwar problem, and
that Iraqis would soon resent the presence of
foreigners trying to impose that order — "we would
have done things differently. It would have made sense
to have had an American military unit assigned this
way from the beginning. They would be told, 'You guys
aren't going to fight this war. You're not going to
get Medals of Honor. But you will get due recognition.
Your job is to run the occupation and train the
Iraqis.' And we'd configure for that mission."

But of course that didn't happen. "I couldn't believe
that we weren't ready for the occupation," Terence
Daly, a retired Army colonel who learned the tactics
of counterinsurgency in Vietnam, told me. "I was
horrified when I saw the looting and the American
inaction afterward. If I were an Iraqi, it would have
shown me these people are not serious."

By late 2003 the United States had lost time and had
changed identity, from liberator to occupier. But in
its public pronouncements and its internal guidance
the administration resisted admitting, even to itself,
that it now faced a genuine insurgency — one that
might grow in strength — rather than merely facing the
dregs of the old regime, whose power would naturally
wane as its leaders were caught and killed. On June 16
Army General John Abizaid, newly installed as CENTGOM
commander, was the first senior American official to
say that in fact the United States now faced a
"classical guerrilla-type campaign." Two days later,
in congressional testimony, Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy
secretary of defense, seemed to accept the definition,
saying, "There is a guerrilla war there, but … we can
win it." On June 30 Rumsfeld corrected both of them,
saying that the evidence from Iraq "doesn't make it
anything like a guerrilla war or an organized
resistance." Two days after that President Bush said
at a White House ceremony that some people felt that
circumstances in Iraq were "such that they can attack
us there. My answer is, Bring them on." Meanwhile, the
insurgency in Iraq grew worse and worse.

Improving the training of Iraqis suddenly moved up the
list of concerns. Karl Eikenberry, an Army general who
had trained Afghan forces after the fall of the
Taliban, was sent to Iraq to see what was wrong.
Pentagon briefers referred more and more frequently to
the effort to create a new Iraqi military. By early
2004 the administration had decided to spend more
money on troop training, and to make it more
explicitly part of the U.S. mission in Iraq. It was
then that a grim reality hit: how hard this process
would actually be.

"Training is not just learning how to fire a gun," I
was told by a congressional staff member who has
traveled frequently to Afghanistan since 9/11. "That's
a part of it, but only a small part." Indeed, basic
familiarity with guns is an area in which Iraqis outdo
Americans. Walter Slocombe says that the CPA tried to
enforce a gun-control law — only one AK-47 per
household — in the face of a widespread Iraqi belief
that many families needed two, one for the house and
one for traveling.

Everyone I interviewed about military training
stressed that it was only trivially about teaching
specific skills. The real goal was to transform a
civilian into a soldier. The process runs from the
individual level, to the small groups that must trust
one another with their lives, to the combined units
that must work in coordination rather than confusedly
firing at one another, to the concept of what makes an
army or a police force different from a gang of thugs.

"The simple part is individual training," Jay Garner
says. "The difficult part is collective training. Even
if you do a good job of all that, the really difficult
thing is all the complex processes it takes to run an
army. You have to equip it. You have to equip all
units at one time. You have to pay them on time. They
need three meals a day and a place to sleep. Fuel.
Ammunition. These sound simple, but they're incredibly
difficult. And if you don't have them, that's what
makes armies not work."

In countless ways the trainers on site faced an
enormous challenge. The legacy of Saddam Hussein was a
big problem. It had encouraged a military culture in
which officers were privileged parasites, enlisted
soldiers were cannon fodder, and noncommissioned
officers — the sergeants who make the U.S. military
function — were barely known. "We are trying to create
a professional NCO corps," Army Major Bob Bateman told
me. "Such a thing has never existed anywhere in the
region. Not in regular units, not in police forces,
not in the military."

The ethnic and tribal fissures in Iraq were another
big problem. Half a dozen times in my interviews I
heard variants on this Arab saying: "Me and my brother
against my cousin; me and my cousin against my
village; me and my village against a stranger." "The
thing that holds a military unit together is trust,"
T. X. Hammes says. "That's a society not based on
trust." A young Marine officer wrote in an e-mail,
"Due to the fact that Saddam murdered, tortured,
raped, etc. at will, there is a limited pool of
18-35-year-old males for service that are physically
or mentally qualified for service. Those that are fit
for service, for the most part, have a DEEP hatred for
those not of the same ethnic or religious

The Iraqi culture of guns was, oddly, not an advantage
but another problem. It had created gangs, not
organized troops. "It's easy to be a gunman and hard
to be a soldier," one expert told me. "If you're a
gunman, it doesn't matter if your gun shoots straight.
You can shoot it in the general direction of people,
and they'll run." Many American trainers refer to an
Iraqi habit of "Inshallah firing," also called "death
blossom" marksmanship. "That is when they pick it up
and start shooting," an officer now on duty in Baghdad
told me by phone. "Death just blossoms around them."

The constant attacks from insurgents were a huge
problem, and not just in the obvious ways. The U.S.
military tries hard to separate training from combat.
Combat is the acid test, but over time it can,
strangely, erode proficiency. Under combat pressure
troops cut corners and do whatever it takes to
survive. That is why when units return from combat,
the Pentagon officially classifies them as "unready"
until they have rested and been retrained in standard
procedures. In principle the training of Iraqi
soldiers and policemen should take place away from the
battlefield, but they are under attack from the moment
they sign up. The pressure is increased because of
public hostility to the foreign occupiers. "I know an
Iraqi brigade commander who has to take off his
uniform when he goes home, so nobody knows what he's
done," Barak Salmon told me. The Iraqi commander said
to him, "It really tugs at our minds that we have to
worry about our families' dying in the insurgency when
we're fighting the insurgency somewhere else." The GAO
found that in these circumstances security units from
"troubled townships" often deserted en masse.

The United States, too, brought its own range of
problems. One was legislative. Because U.S. forces had
helped prop up foreign dictators, Congress in the
1970s prohibited most forms of American aid to police
forces — as distinct from armies — in other countries.
For the purposes of containing the insurgency in Iraq
the distinction was meaningless. But administration
officials used up time and energy through 2004
figuring out an answer to this technical-sounding yet
important problem.

Language remained a profound and constant problem. One
of the surprises in asking about training Iraqi troops
was how often it led to comparisons with Vietnam.
Probably because everything about the Vietnam War took
longer to develop, "Vietnamization" was a more
thought-through, developed strategy than "Iraqization"
has had a chance to be. A notable difference is that
Americans chosen for training assignments in Vietnam
were often given four to six months of language
instruction. That was too little to produce any real
competence, but enough to provide useful rudiments
that most Americans in Iraq don't have.

The career patterns of the U.S. military were a
problem. For family reasons, and to keep moving up in
rank, American soldiers rotate out of Iraq at the end
of a year. They may be sent back to Iraq, but probably
on a different assignment in a different part of the
country. The adviser who has been building contacts in
a village or with a police unit is gone, and a fresh,
non-Arabic-speaking face shows up. "All the
relationships an adviser has established, all the
knowledge he has built up, goes right with him,"
Terence Daly, the counterinsurgency specialist from
the Vietnam War, says. Every manual on
counterinsurgency emphasizes the need for long-term
personal relations. "We should put out a call for
however many officers and NCOs we need," Daly says,
"and give them six months of basic Arabic. In the
course of this training we could find the ones suited
to serve there for five years. Instead we treat them
like widgets."

All indications from the home front were that training
Iraqis had become a boring issue. Opponents of the war
rarely talked about it. Supporters reeled off
encouraging but hollow statistics as part of a
checklist of successes the press failed to report.
President Bush placed no emphasis on it in his
speeches. Donald Rumsfeld, according to those around
him, was bored by Iraq in general and this tedious
process in particular, neither of which could match
the challenge of transforming America's military

The lack of urgency showed up in such mundane ways as
equipment shortages. In the spring of 2004
investigators from the GAO found that the Iraqi police
had only 41 percent of the patrol vehicles they
needed, 21 percent of the hand-held radios, and nine
percent of the protective vests. The Iraqi Civil
Defense Corps, a branch of the military, had received
no protective vests at all. According to the GAO
report, "A multinational force assessment noted that
Iraqis within the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps felt the
multinational force never took them seriously, as
exhibited by what they perceived as the broken
promises and the lack of trust of the multinational

Although most people I spoke with said they had warm
relations with many of their Iraqi counterparts, the
lack of trust applied on the U.S. side as well.
American trainers wondered how many of the skills they
were imparting would eventually be used against them,
by infiltrators or by soldiers who later changed
sides. Iraq's Ministry of Defense has complained that
the United States is supplying simpler equipment, such
as AK-47s rather than the more powerful M4 rifles, and
pickup trucks rather than tanks. Such materiel may, as
U.S. officials stress, be far better suited to Iraq's
current needs. It would also be less troublesome if
Iraq and the United States came to be no longer on
friendly terms.

And the biggest problem of all was the kind of war
this new Iraqi army had to fight.

"Promoting disorder is a legitimate objective for the
insurgent," a classic book about insurgency says.

It helps to disrupt the economy, hence to produce
it serves to undermine the strength and the authority
of the
counterinsurgent [that is, government forces].
disorder … is cheap to create and very costly to
The insurgent blows up a bridge, so every bridge has
to be
guarded; he throws a grenade in a movie theater, so
every person
entering a public place has to be searched.

The military and political fronts are so closely
connected, the book concludes, that progress on one is
impossible without progress on the other: "Every
military move has to be weighed with regard to its
political effects, and vice versa."

This is not a book about Iraq. The book is
Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice, which
was published nearly forty years ago by a French
soldier and military analyst, David Galula, and is
based on his country's experiences in Algeria and

Counterinsurgency scholarship has boomed among
military intellectuals in the 2000s, as it did in the
1960s, and for the same reason: insurgents are the
enemy we have to fight. "I've been reading a lot of T.
E. Lawrence, especially through the tough times," Dave
Petraeus said when I asked where he had looked for
guidance during his year of supervising training
efforts. An influential book on counterinsurgency by
John Nagl, an Army lieutenant colonel who commanded a
tank unit in Iraq, is called Learning to Eat Soup With
a Knife. That was Lawrence's metaphor for the skills
needed to fight Arab insurgents.

"No modern army using conventional tactics has ever
defeated an insurgency," Terence Daly told me.
Conventional tactics boil down to killing the enemy.
At this the U.S. military, with unmatchable firepower
and precision, excels. "Classic counterinsurgency,
however, is not primarily about killing insurgents; it
is about controlling the population and creating a
secure environment in which to gain popular support,"
Daly says.

From the vast and growing literature of
counterinsurgency come two central points. One, of
course, is the intertwining of political and military
objectives: in the long run this makes local forces
like the Iraqi army more potent than any foreigners;
they know the language, they pick up subtle signals,
they have a long-term stake. The other is that
defeating an insurgency is the very hardest kind of
warfare. The United States cannot win this battle in
Iraq. It hopes the Iraqis can.

Through the second year of occupation most of the
indications were dark. An internal Pentagon report

The first Iraqi Army infantry battalions finished
basic training
in early 2004 and were immediately required in combat
complete equipment … Absent-without-leave rates among
regular army units were in double digits and remained
so for
the rest of the year.

I asked Robert Pape about the AWOL and desertion
problems that had plagued Iraqi forces in Mosul,
Fallujah, and elsewhere. Pape, of the University of
Chicago, is the author of Dying to Win, a recent book
about suicide terrorism. "Really, it was not
surprising that this would happen," he said. "You were
taking a force that had barely been stood up and
asking it to do one of the most demanding missions
possible: an offensive mission against a city. Even
with a highly loyal force you were basically asking
them to sacrifice themselves. Search and destroy would
be one of the last things you would want them to do."

A GAO report showed the extent of the collapse. Fifty
percent of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps in the areas
around Baghdad deserted in the first half of April. So
did 30 percent of those in the northeastern area
around Tikrit and the southeast near al-Kut. And so
did 80 percent of the forces around Fallujah.

This was how things still stood on the eve of
America's presidential election and the beginning of a
new approach in Baghdad.

At the end of June 2004 Ambassador Bremer went home.
His Coalition Provisional Authority ceased to exist,
and an interim Iraqi government, under a prime
minister selected by the Americans, began planning for
the first nationwide elections, which were held in
January of this year. The first U.S. ambassador to
postwar Iraq, John D. Negroponte, was sworn in as
Bremer left. And a new American Army general arrived
to supervise the training of Iraqis: Dave Petraeus,
who had just received his third star.

The appointment was noticed throughout the military.
Petraeus, who holds a Ph.D. from Princeton, had led
the 101st Airborne during its drive on Mosul in 2003
and is one of the military's golden boys. What I heard
about him from other soldiers reminded me of what
reporters used to hear about Richard Holbrooke from
other diplomats: many people marveled at his ambition;
few doubted his skills. Petraeus's new assignment
suggested that training Iraqis had become a sexier and
more important job. By all accounts Petraeus and
Negroponte did a lot to make up for lost time in the
training program.

Under Petraeus the training command abandoned an often
ridiculed way of measuring progress. At first
Americans had counted all Iraqis who were simply "on
duty" — a total that swelled to more than 200,000 by
March of 2004. Petraeus introduced an assessment of
"unit readiness," as noted above. Training had been
underfunded in mid-2004, but more money and equipment
started to arrive.

The training strategy also changed. More emphasis was
put on embedding U.S. advisers with Iraqi units. Teams
of Iraqi foot soldiers were matched with D.S. units
that could provide the air cover and other advanced
services they needed. To save money and reduce the
chance of a coup, Saddam Hussein's soldiers had only
rarely, or never, fired live ammunition during
training. According to an unpublished study from the
U.S. Army War College, even the elite units of the
Baghdad Republican Guard were allowed to fire only
about ten rounds of ammunition per soldier in the year
before the war, versus about 2,500 rounds for the
typical U.S. infantry soldier. To the amazement of
Iraqi army veterans, Petraeus introduced live-fire
exercises for new Iraqi recruits.

At the end of last year, as the Iraqi national
elections drew near, Negroponte used his discretion to
shift $2 billion from other reconstruction projects to
the training effort. "That will be seen as quite a
courageous move, and one that paid big dividends,"
Petraeus told me. "It enabled the purchase of a lot of
additional equipment, extra training, and more
rebuilding of infrastructure, which helped us get more
Iraqi forces out in the field by the January 30

The successful staging of the elections marked a
turning point — at least for the training effort.
Political optimism faded with the subsequent deadlocks
over the constitution, but "we never lost momentum on
the security front," Petraeus told me. During the
elections more than 130,000 Iraqi troops guarded more
than 5,700 polling stations; there were some attacks,
but the elections went forward. "We have transitioned
six or seven bases to Iraqi control," he continued,
listing a variety of other duties Iraqi forces had
assumed. "The enemy recognizes that if Iraqi security
forces ever really get traction, they are in trouble.
So all of this is done in the most challenging
environment imaginable."

Had the training units avoided the "B Team" taint? By
e-mail I asked an officer on the training staff about
the "loser" image traditionally attached to such jobs
within the military. He wrote back that although
training slots had long been seen as "career killers,"
the importance of the effort in Iraq was changing all
that. From others not involved in training I heard a
more guarded view: If an Iraqi army emerges, the image
of training will improve; if it doesn't, the careers
of Petraeus and his successor Dempsey will suffer.

Time is the problem. As prospects have brightened
inside the training program, they have darkened across
the country. From generals to privates, every soldier
I spoke with stressed that the military campaign would
ultimately fail without political progress. If an army
has no stable government to defend, even the
best-trained troops will devolve into regional
militias and warlord gangs. "I always call myself a
qualified optimist, but the qualification is Iraqi
leaders muddling through," one senior officer told me.
"Certain activities are beyond Americans' control."

Ethnic tensions divide Iraq, and they divide the new
army. "Thinking that we could go in and produce a
unified Iraqi army is like thinking you could go into
the South after the Civil War and create an army of
blacks and whites fighting side by side," Robert Pape,
of the University of Chicago, told me. "You can pay
people to go through basic training and take moderate
risks. But unless they're really loyal to a
government, as the risks go up, they will run." Almost
every study of the new Iraqi military raises doubts
about how loyally "Iraqi" it is, as opposed to
Kurdish, Shiite, or Sunni. The most impressive
successes by "Iraqi" forces have in fact been by units
that were really Kurdish peshmurga or Shiite militias.

"There is still no sense of urgency," T. X. Hammes
says. In August, he pointed out, the administration
announced with pride that it had bought 200 new
armored vehicles for use in Iraq. "Two-plus years into
the war, and we're proud! Can you imagine if in March
of 1944 we had proudly announced two hundred new
vehicles?" By 1944 American factories had been
retooled to produce 100,000 warplanes. "From the
president on down there is no urgency at all."

Since last June, President Bush has often repeated his
"As Iraqi forces stand up …" formula, but he rarely
says anything more specific about American exit plans.
When he welcomed Iraq's president, Jalal Talabani, to
the White House in September, his total comment on the
training issue in a substantial welcoming speech was
"Our objective is to defeat the enemies of a free
Iraq, and we're working to prepare more Iraqi forces
to join the fight." This was followed by the stand
up/stand down slogan. Vice President Cheney sounds
similarly dutiful. ("Our mission in Iraq is clear," he
says in his typical speech. "On the military side we
are hunting down the terrorists and training Iraqi
security forces so they can take over responsibility
for defending their own country." He usually follows
with the slogan but with no further details or

Donald Rumsfeld has the same distant tone. Condoleezza
Rice and Paul Wolfowitz have moved on to different
things. At various times since 9/11 members of the
administration have acted as if catching Osarna bin
Laden, or changing Social Security, or saving Terri
Schiavo, or coping with Hurricane Katrina, mattered
more than any possible other cause. Creating an Iraqi
military actually matters more than al most anything
else. But the people who were intent on the war have
lost interest in the only way out.

A Marine lieutenant colonel said, "You tell me who in
the White House devotes full time to winning this
war." The answer seems to be Meghan O'Sullivan, a
former Brookings scholar who is now the president's
special assistant for Iraq. As best I can tell from
Nexis, other online news sources, and the White House
Web site, since taking the job, late last year, she
has made no public speeches or statements about the

Listening to the Americans who have tried their best
to create an Iraqi military can be heartening. They
send e-mails or call late at night Iraq time to report
successes. A Web magazine published by the training
command, called The Advisor, carries photos of
American mentors working side by side with their Iraqi
students, and articles about new training techniques.
The Americans can sound inspired when they talk about
an Iraqi soldier or policeman who has shown bravery
and devotion in the truest way — by running toward
battle rather than away from it, or rushing to
surround a suicide bomber and reduce the number of
civilians who will be killed.

But listening to these soldiers and advisers is also
deeply discouraging — in part because so much of what
they report is discouraging in itself, but even more
because the conversations head to a predictable dead
end. Sooner or later the question is What do we do
now? or What is the way out? And the answer is that
there is no good answer.

Let me suggest a standard for judging endgame
strategies in Iraq, given the commitment the United
States has already made. It begins with the
recognition that even if it were possible to rebuild
and fully democratize Iraq, as a matter of political
reality the United States will not stay to see it
through. (In Japan, Germany, and South Korea we did
see it through. But while there were postwar
difficulties in all those countries, none had an
insurgency aimed at Americans.) But perhaps we could
stay long enough to meet a more modest standard.

What is needed for an honorable departure is, at a
minimum, a country that will not go to war with
itself, and citizens who will not turn to large-scale
murder. This requires Iraqi security forces that are
working on a couple of levels: a national army strong
enough to deter militias from any region and loyal
enough to the new Iraq to resist becoming the tool of
any faction; policemen who are sufficiently competent,
brave, and honest to keep civilians safe. If the
United States leaves Iraq knowing that non-American
forces are sufficient to keep order, it can leave with
a clear conscience — no matter what might happen a
year or two later.

In the end the United States may not be able to leave
honorably. The pressure to get out could become too
great. But if we were serious about reconstituting an
Iraqi military as quickly as possible, what would we
do? Based on these interviews, I have come to this
sobering conclusion: the United States can best train
Iraqis, and therefore best help itself leave Iraq,
only by making certain very long-term commitments to

Some of the changes that soldiers and analysts
recommend involve greater urgency of effort,
reflecting the greater importance of making the
training succeed. Despite brave words from the
Americans on the training detail, the larger military
culture has not changed to validate what they do. "I
would make advising an Iraqi battalion more
career-enhancing than commanding an American
battalion," one retired Marine officer told me. "If we
were serious, we'd be gutting every military
headquarters in the world, instead of just telling
units coming into the country they have to give up
twenty percent of their officers as trainers."

The U.S. military does everything in Iraq worse and
slower than it could if it solved its language
problems. It is unbelievable that American fighting
ranks have so little help. Soon after Pearl Harbor the
U.S. military launched major Japanese-language
training institutes at universities and was screening
draftees to find the most promising students. America
has made no comparable effort to teach Arabic. Nearly
three years after the invasion of Iraq the typical
company of 150 or so U.S. soldiers gets by with one or
two Arabic-speakers. T. X. Hammes says that U.S.
forces and trainers in Iraq should have about 22,000
interpreters, but they have nowhere near that many.
Some 600,000 Americans can speak Arabic. Hammes has
proposed offering huge cash bonuses to attract the
needed numbers to Iraq.

In many other ways the flow of dollars and effort
shows that the military does not yet take Iraq — let
alone the training effort there — seriously. The
Pentagon's main weapons-building programs are the same
now that they were five years ago, before the United
States had suffered one attack and begun two wars.
From the Pentagon's policy statements, and even more
from its budgetary choices, one would never guess that
insurgency was our military's main challenge, and that
its main strategic hope lay in the inglorious work of
training foreign troops. Planners at the White House
and the Pentagon barely imagined before the war that
large numbers of U.S. troops would be in Iraq three
years later. So most initiatives for Iraq have been
stopgap — not part of a systematic effort to build the
right equipment, the right skills, the right
strategies, for a long-term campaign.

Some other recommended changes involve more-explicit
long-range commitments. When officers talk about the
risk of "using up" or "burning out" the military, they
mean that too many arduous postings, renewed too
frequently, will drive career soldiers out of the
military. The recruitment problems of the National
Guard are well known. Less familiar to the public but
of great concern in the military is the "third tour"
phenomenon: A young officer will go for his first
year-long tour in Iraq or Afghanistan, and then his
second. Facing the prospect of his third, he may bail
out while he still has time to start another, less
stressful career.

For the military's sake soldiers need to go to Iraq
less often, and for shorter periods. But success in
training Iraqis will require some Americans to stay
there much longer. Every book or article about
counterinsurgency stresses that it is an intimate,
subjective, human business. Establishing trust across
different cultures takes time. After 9/11 everyone
huffed about the shocking loss of "human intelligence"
at America's spy agencies. But modern American culture
— technological, fluid, transient — discourages the
creation of the slow-growing, subtle bonds necessary
for both good spy work and good military liaison. The
British had their India and East Asia hands, who were
effective because they spent years in the field
cultivating contacts. The American military has done
something similar with its Green Berets. For the
training effort to have a chance, many, many more
regular soldiers will need to commit to long service
in Iraq.

The United States will have to agree to stay in Iraq
in another significant way. When U.S. policy changed
from counting every Iraqi in uniform to judging how
many whole units were ready to function, a triage
decision was made. The Iraqis would not be trained
anytime soon for the whole range of military
functions; they would start with the most basic combat
and security duties. The idea, as a former
high-ranking administration official put it, was
"We're building a spearhead, not the whole spear."

The rest of the spear consists of the specialized,
often technically advanced functions that multiply the
combat units' strength. These are as simple as
logistics — getting food, fuel, ammunition, spare
parts, where they are needed — and as complex as
battlefield surgical units, satellite-based spy
services, and air support from helicopters and fighter

The United States is not helping Iraq develop many of
these other functions. Sharp as the Iraqi spearhead
may become, on its own it will be relatively weak. The
Iraqis know their own territory and culture, and they
will be fighting an insurgency, not a heavily equipped
land army. But if they can't count on the Americans to
keep providing air support, intelligence and
communications networks, and other advanced systems,
they will never emerge as an effective force. So the
United States will have to continue to provide all
this. The situation is ironic. Before the war insiders
argued that sooner or later it would be necessary to
attack, because the U.S. Air Force was being
"strained" by its daily sorties over Iraq's no-fly
zones. Now that the war is over, the United States has
taken on a much greater open-ended obligation.

In sum, if the United States is serious about getting
out of Iraq, it will need to re-consider its defense
spending and operations rather than leaving them to a
combination of inertia, Rumsfeld-led plans for
"transformation," and emergency stopgaps. It will need
to spend money for interpreters. It will need to
create large new training facilities for American
troops, as happened within a few months of Pearl
Harbor, and enroll talented people as trainees. It
will need to make majors and colonels sit through
language classes. It will need to broaden the Special
Forces ethic to much more of the military, and make
clear that longer tours will be the norm in Iraq. It
will need to commit air, logistics, medical, and
intelligence services to Iraq — and understand that
this is a commitment for years, not a temporary
measure. It will need to decide that there are weapons
systems it does not require and commitments it cannot
afford if it is to support the ones that are crucial.
And it will need to make these decisions in a matter
of months, not years — before it is too late.

America's hopes today for an orderly exit from Iraq
depend completely on the emergence of a viable Iraqi
security force. There is no indication that such a
force is about to emerge. As a matter of unavoidable
logic, the United States must therefore choose one of
two difficult alternatives: It can make the serious
changes — including certain commitments to remain in
Iraq for many years — that would be necessary to bring
an Iraqi army to maturity. Or it can face the stark
fact that it has no orderly way out of Iraq, and
prepare accordingly.

Having eliminated the existing security force,
American officials wasted the next six months. By the
time they thought seriously about reconstituting
Iraq's military and police, the insurgency was under

By early 2004 the administration had decided to spend
more money on Iraqi troop training and make it an
explicit part of the U.S. mission. It was then that a
grim reality hit: how hard this process would actually

All indications from the home front were that training
Iraqis had become a boring issue. Donald Rumsfeld,
according to those around him, was bored by Iraq in
general and this tedious process in particular.

"U.S. trainers have made a heroic effort," Ahmed
Hashim, an expert at the Naval War College, explains.
"But the Iraqi Security Forces are almost like a black
hole. You put a lot in and little comes back out."

Last summer Marine General Peter Pace said that three
Iraqi units had reached the "fully capable" level. In
September the U.S. military commander in Iraq, Army
General George Casey, lowered that estimate to one.

America's hopes today for an orderly exit from Iraq
depend completely on the emergence of a viable Iraqi
security force. All current indications suggest that
no such viable Iraqi security force is about to

Paul Bremer., the U.S. overseer in Iraq, and Ayad
Allawi, then president of the Iraqi Governing Council,
at the graduation of 700 U.S.-trained Iraqis soldiers,
Kirkush, October 2003

Former Iraqi soldiers gather to demonstrate after
learning that they would be unable to collect their
pay, Baghdad, October 2003

A U.S. soldier inside the walls of the Green Zone, the
Coalition Provisional Authority compound in central

An American soldier stops the looting of guns from
inside the Ministry of Planning, Baghdad, April 2003


By James Fallows

Photographs by Ilkka Uimonen

James Fallows is a national correspondent for The

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Source: Atlantic, Dec2005, Vol. 296 Issue 5, p60, 14p
Item: 18848329

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