Iraq Military Preparedness

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The U.S. is now engaged in a slow, painstaking effort to reconstitute the Iraqi military under new training. It will take years before the Iraqis will be able to fully defend their country on their own. John Murtha says that our departure would in effect take the wind out of the sails of the insurgency. He recommends that we leave in short order while maintaining troops in nearby countries to deal quickly with any military emergencies. If this conflict is primarily about our presence, would you agree with Murtha that, with our departure, the Iraqi people would turn on both the insurgents and the terrorists?

First, our military presence in Iraq, indeed, has proven to be a magnet for Islamist terrorists, both foreign and Iraqi. It also has galvanized an insurgency by other disparate groups opposed to the U.S. presence. To Islamist radicals, the U.S. intervention in Iraq has some parallels to that by the Soviets in Afghanistan during the 1980s. In their eyes, foreign, non-Muslim aggressors must be bled and defeated -- cause for jihad, or holy war. Many of the foreign Islamists saw action in Afghanistan, then Bosnia, before going to Iraq. While withdrawal of our troops would remove a large and attractive target for these fighters, it would not end fighting against the government we would have left in place nor between ethnic/religious groups.

Would the Iraqi people turn against the insurgents? This is hard to predict. Many Iraqis already have been turning against them in increasing numbers. But the internal picture is very complex. For example, many Sunnis would carry on their fight against a Shia-dominated government. Others, however, are now joining in the political process. For their part, the Kurds have proven to be consistent and effective opponents to terrorists. My guess is that, following American withdrawal, we would see years of continued fighting, likely slackening off gradually as the new, popularly-elected government took hold and became stronger and more effective. The Iraqi armed forces, however, have a long way to go to make that happen without U.S. troop presence to back them up.

But predictions are the province of Nostradamus and I don't think he said anything about Iraq. The next year will be crucial for the success or failure of the American effort and for a new Iraqi government.
I served 2 years in the military and was supposedly prepared for battle after 2 months of basic training. A lot has been said about the lack of military preparedness of the Iraqi military. By comparison, how much training did our troops receive prior to battle in WW2, Vietnam, and Korea? Why wouldn't one expect that they are long overdue in taking over responsibility in a land familiar to them in every conceivable way?

Basic training lasted 6-13 weeks, depending on service branch and any add-on training after boot camp. If you are referring to the Iraqi military, the reason they aren't prepared to take over full responsibility for defense is due in large part to the fact that the U.S., under former U.S. administrator, Paul Bremer, basically dissolved Saddam's forces. The leadership was gutted as a result of Bremer's order that no Baath party members could stay on.

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Iraq Military Preparedness

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This article was published on 2010/04/04
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