U.S. Soldiers Say Administration Exaggerated Role Of Iraqi Troops In Basra Offensive

rewrt.jpg Earlier this month, the southern Iraqi city of Basra was engulfed in violence as radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr calling for the “downfall of the U.S.-backed government.”

As Reuters noted, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s crackdown on the militias largely “backfired, exposing the weakness of his army and strengthening his political foes ahead of elections.” Yet the Bush administration and its allies have attempted to portray this violence as a success, demonstrating the capability of the Iraqi army:

— “It was a very positive moment in the development of a sovereign nation that is willing to take on elements that believe they are beyond the law.” [President Bush, 3/27/08]

— “This is an Iraqi led and Iraqi initiated operation. And this is what we’ve been wanting to see the Iraqis do is take on more responsibility.” [White House spokeswoman Dana Perino, 3/25/08]

— “As you know, we saw a thousand police and military desert their posts. But the rest of the military did a pretty good job, did a pretty good job. We did secure the port of Basra. Maybe I’m digging for the pony here.” [Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), 4/15/08]

— “We’re going to talk about Iraq and the Iraqi offensive, which I think, in a sense, is good news. Because it’s the Iraqi government, who’s mostly Shi’ite, taking on Shi’ite outlaw militias in the southern part of the country and this is after all what the whole point of the surge.” [Fox News’s Chris Wallace, 3/28/08]

According to a new Time magazine article, some U.S. troops are bristling at all the undue credit being lavished upon the Iraqi forces:

And at least one American soldier said he was angry that the role of Iraqi troops was exaggerated after the battle. “A gunfight broke out and we were fighting [the Mahdi Army] for about four hours,” the soldier told TIME. “The army article made it sound like we were just there supporting the Iraqi Army, but we did all the work. We just had four humvees out there with some Iraqi [troops].”

Another soldier at Forward Operating Base Kalsu in north Babil said he has little confidence in the battle abilities of the Iraqi forces. “Sometimes they start shooting because they heard or saw something, but then there’s nothing there,” he said.

Time adds that even Iraqi commanders, “hailed by the Americans and boastful of their recent fights, are doubtful of whether their troops could ultimately stand alone.”