HARI SREENIVASAN: The Reuters news agency reports that the 17- month U.S. effort to train and build up the Iraqi army has fallen short. Current and former U.S. officers and officials told Reuters that despite U.S. efforts, the army’s combat capacity has barely improved, and that the government relies too heavily on Shiite militias to do the fighting.
For more about the readiness of the Iraqi army, I am joined via Skype by Ned Parker of Reuters, who co-wrote the report.
For someone watching at home, give us a little bit of the lay of the land here. What’s the mix between the Iraqi army and the militias? Who is doing most of the fighting?
NED PARKER, REUTERS: Well, it’s a mixed bag, really. The problem is is that the Iraqi army only has about five functioning divisions, according to U.S. officers. And those divisions are about 60 to 65 percent capacity. So on the ground now, when fighting happens, the Iraqi military has basically a shortage of labor. And the one good fighting force that’s there, that’s effective from the state, is the Iraqi Special Forces. And according to U.S. officers, those forces are in real danger of burning out because they are the only force the state has been able to rely upon time and time again over the last two years.
So the other force fighting alongside the special forces are militia groups that many of them are funded by Iran. They have hard-line sectarian ideology, and have been deeply controversial. So on the ground, what happens is many places like north of Baghdad, in areas like Tikrit or Beiji that were retaken from the Islamic State, by the Iraqi special forces, as soon as the battle is over in effect, the militias take over. And people in these areas, whether local officials, ordinary citizens, see not the state but the militia forces as the ultimate power.
So there's a failing grade for the administration.
Barack Obama installed Haider al-Abadi as prime minister of Iraq.
And neither he nor Haider is capable of standing up to terrorists.
And it's effecting the way the United States is seen.
Meanwhile, the assault on Falluja had provided Haider with some cover.
That cover is fading.
ALSUMARIA reports that Shi'ite cleric and movement leader has issued a call for his followers to continue protesting. AL MADA notes that Moqtada has been calling for Haider and Parliament to step down over the inability to create a new Cabinet.
Meanwhile NATIONAL IRAQI NEWS AGENCY notes that Amir al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq is calling for the politicians to be prepared to do the work required in a post-Islamic State Iraq, meaning that they work together to form a politically inclusive government.
Osama al-Nujaifi, former Speaker of Parliament, says the country is currently doomed to sectarian practices because of a lack of desire for a true national balance.
I'm traveling in some vehicle
I'm sitting in some cafe
A defector from the petty wars
That shell shock love away
-- "Hejira," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her album of the same name
The number of US service members the Dept of Defense states died in the Iraq War is [PDF format warning] 4517 (including 20 in Operation Inherent Resolve which includes at least 3 Iraq War fatalities).
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