Monday, March 31, 2008

The myth of the Iraqi military's abilities.

I just heard Guy Raz, NPR's defense correspondent, say on TOTN that al-Maliki's defeat isn't all bad. He says Pentagon officials tell him the offensive showed large numbers of Iraqi security forces can operate independently, without US help.

Judging by the outcome of the fighting, I'd say they really can't.

Only three days into the fighting the WaPo reported:

"U.S. forces in armored vehicles battled Mahdi Army fighters Thursday in Sadr City . . . Iraqi army and police units appeared to be largely holding to the outskirts of the area as American troops took the lead in the fighting. Four U.S. Stryker armored vehicles were seen in Sadr City by a Washington Post correspondent, one of them engaging Mahdi Army militiamen with heavy fire. The din of American weapons, along with the Mahdi Army's AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades, was heard through much of the day. U.S. helicopters and drones buzzed overhead."

Last Friday AP reported:

"U.S. forces stepped deeper Friday into the Iraqi government's fight to cripple Shiite militias, launching air strikes in the southern city of Basra and firing a Hellfire missile in the main Shiite stronghold in Baghdad."

The NYT reports:

"At about 5 p.m. on Sunday, an American soldier was killed just north of the capital when the vehicle he was riding in was hit by a roadside bomb. In Sadr City, witnesses said an American armored vehicle was blown up by a homemade bomb on Falah Street, in the center of the neighborhood. Ali Khayon, who lives on the street, said the blast occurred about 1:30. 'The American soldiers opened fire randomly in a crazy way and shot many people,' he said. 'I started taking the wounded people in my truck in order to move them to the hospital, and on the way I saw the American tank still burning.'

A police officer in Sadr City said a second armored vehicle that came to tow away the one that was bombed was hit by another explosion. . . An aircraft called in to support the soldiers killed 25 people, according to the statement. American forces also conducted air strikes in the New Baghdad neighborhood, just south of Sadr City, in Kadhimiya, in Ghazaliya in eastern Baghdad and in the northern part of the city, according to the American military. At least 21 people were killed."

And Reuters reported yesterday:

"The United States confirmed on Sunday that U.S. special forces units were operating alongside Iraqi government troops in Basra. . . A U.S. military statement described a joint raid by Iraqi and U.S. special forces units which killed 22 suspected militants, including '16 criminal fighters' strafed in an air strike on three houses." [Or just civilians who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. It's so hard to tell.]

And Newsweek reporter Michael Hirsh says this extensive US help for Iraqi forces, especially air support, is a long term deal.

Michael Hirsh reported in Newsweek last year:

"Despite all the political debate in Washington about a quick U.S. pullout from Iraq, the vast Balad Air Base, a 15-square-mile mini-city of thousands of trailers and vehicle depots located 43 miles north of Baghdad, is hard evidence that the Pentagon is planning to stay in Iraq for a long time-at least a decade or so, according to military strategists. . . . With 27,500 landings and takeoffs a month, Balad is second only to London's Heathrow Airport in traffic worldwide, Brig. Gen. Frank Gorenc, the base commander."

So, don't believe the hype about the abilities of the Iraqi army to wipe their own asses without massive US aid.

Extra note:

I count at 7 US casualties listed in Baghdad since al-Maliki launched his offensive. More than likely these deaths can be attributed to al-Maliki "taking the lead."

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