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Shifting Focus

By Matthew Yglesias

"Shifting Focus"

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Another new strategy:

Under the plan developed by Chiarelli’s staff, the military would shift about half of its 15 combat brigades away from battling insurgents and sectarian violence and into training Iraqi security forces as soon as the spring of 2007, military and defense officials said. In northern and western Iraq, U.S. commanders are already moving troops out of combat missions to place them as advisers with lower-level Iraqi army units, Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, spokesman for the military in Iraq, said yesterday at a briefing in Baghdad.

I wonder what this even means. It doesn’t seem to me that our typical rank-and-file soldiers are especially trained or qualified to act as trainers of Iraqi security forces. They don’t for example, speak Arabic, and I would imagine that being embedded with a group of heavily armed men whose language you can’t speak would be sort of unpleasant.

But more to the point, what’s the problem that additional training is supposed to address? Hearing proposals like these you would believe that there are two sides in Iraq, the Good Guys and the Bad Guys and that the main problem is that the Bad Guys have a top-notch military academy at their disposal whereas the Good Guys do not. But that’s not the situation at all. Various armed groups seem to be able to fight reasonably effectively without the benefit of American training. At the same time, giving the Iraqi Army more intensive drill-instruction isn’t going to change the basic lack of legitimate national institutions for people to be loyal to.

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