A hallmark of President Bush’s Iraq policy is “as the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down,” referring to the training of Iraqi security forces. But a progress report on Iraq earlier this week showed that “despite stepped-up training, the readiness of the Iraqi military to operate independently of U.S. forces has decreased” since the escalation began.
Nevertheless, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appeared on NBC’s Today Show yesterday and attempted to deny these reports, giving false portrayals of progress in training the Iraqi security forces:
[I]f you look at the way that they are fighting now, in a less sectarian fashion…I think they’re fighting on behalf of all Iraqis, where they showed up in the numbers that they are supposed to.
In fact, sectarianism is as strong as ever in the security forces. Just last month, Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey, in charge of transitioning the Iraqi forces, observed that the military is “riddled with sectarianism and corruption.” For example, Shiite militias allied with the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, have extensively infiltrated the National Police, units of which are perpetrating violence and forming death squads against Sunnis. Many ally with insurgents to kill U.S. soldiers.
Furthermore, at least one-third of the Iraqi Army is on leave at any one time. Desertion and other problems bring the total to over half in some units. Dempsey reported an annual attrition rate of 15 to 18 percent; in many cases, he said, Iraqi army commanders overreport attendance “so that he gets a payroll share more than he deserves and thereby pocket it.”
Ultimately, “the United States is arming different sides in multiple civil wars that could turn even more vicious in the coming years,” observes Center for American Progress fellows Brian Katulis and Lawrence Korb, who advocate a redeployment for U.S. troops and an end to the unconditional training of Iraqi security forces.
LAUER: Let me go back to these benchmarks, though, for a second, and let’s take a look at two key specifics.
The Iraqi military, according to this report, is nowhere near ready to stand up and take control of its own security situation. And the Iraqi unity government is nowhere near, it seems, able to forge the kinds of compromises that are required to end the violence.
Aren’t those two glaring problems?
RICE: Well, in terms of the Iraqi security forces, yes, they’re going to need support and particularly in terms of logistics, but they have made some progress.
And if you look at the way that they are fighting now, in a less sectarian fashion, where I think they’re fighting on behalf of all Iraqis, where they showed up in the numbers that they are supposed to, or where they’ve made adjustments to get more forces into the fight, those are all positive signs.