Anorak | ISIS Wins Because The Iraqi Army Won’t Fight For A Country That No Longer Exists

ISIS Wins Because The Iraqi Army Won’t Fight For A Country That No Longer Exists

by | 14th, August 2014



AS ISIS butchers its way across Iraq, we wonder what happened to the Iraqi Army?

Peter Beaumont looks at the arsenal:

After Iraq’s armed forces were disbanded following the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, the United States and its allies committed more than $25bn to training and building a new military. With more than 250,000 frontline troops (not counting paramilitary police units), on paper at least the Iraqi military should be effective. It is equipped with almost 400 tanks including US M1A1s and Russian T- series tanks including the T-72. It also has more than 2,500 armoured fighting vehicles and 278 aircraft, including drones, transport aircraft, amphibious aircraft and 129 helicopters.

ISIS has up to 6,000 fighters .


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Did we leave behind a good, well-trained Army?

During Operation Telic 13, the codename for British operations in Iraq since the invasion in March 2003, British troops have focused mainly on mentoring the Iraqi army, in particular the 14th Division. “I think we can go with our hands on our hearts, holding our heads high, very proud of what people have achieved here over the last six years,” says outgoing Major General Andy Salmon.

“The British here truly have an understanding of an insurgency-rich environment. The steps they have taken and set in place have set American and coalition forces up for success as we partner with the Iraqis here,” says Col Stanford.

Who esle trained the Iraqis?

Borzou Daragahi wrote for the  Post-Gazette in 2003:

KIRKUSH, Iraq A noisy column of green camouflage heralds the coming of the new Iraqi Army’s first recruits. The would-be soldiers young and middle aged, Kurdish, Arab and Turkoman march in formation, launch ambushes, fire their weapons and take instruction on the ethics of being good soldiers.

The United States occupation authority, proudly displaying the battalion-size set of recruits for the international media earlier this month, hopes they will eventually grow into a pro-American military that will defend the country from foreign enemies and prevent domestic strife.

But to train them in these critical tasks, the United States isn’t turning to its own armed forces but to a group of gray-suited specialists under contract from the Vinnell Corp., a subsidiary of American defense giant Northrop Grumman. Vinnell is one of more than a dozen private military companies, often called PMCs, hired by the Pentagon to augment U.S. forces in Iraq in ways that have occasionally raised the eyebrows of real soldiers and occupation officials.

“The Iraqi army is such an essential component for the future of Iraq in terms of avoiding civil war,” said Rex Wempen, a Baghdad-based security consultant and former Special Forces operative. “It shows how embedded the PMCs are in the thinking of the Department of Defense that they would use them to train that army.”

Brad Hardy is an active duty Army major. As a battery commander in Kirkuk, Iraq, in 2009, he helped train Iraqi police. He writes :

The problem is that despite all of the regional-specific training the conventional Army received and military-to-military training it applied between 2007 and 2011, little of it can be correlated to any substantial growth within the ISF. The evidence is in the current news. There are a number of reasons why the Army was largely unsuccessful in preparing ISF for the fight it now faces. One may be that the training we offered was centered on how to operate as the U.S., not Iraqi, Army. Another may be that when the Iraqi showed any tactical ability, it was more to impress the American noncommissioned officer standing behind him than to defend against an opposing tribe or political belief. A third is that the American soldier’s planning doctrine is too Western and incongruent with Eastern methods. Fourth, despite our best efforts over the years, courage and effective, trustworthy leadership may not be trainable. Overall, no matter how culturally savvy we were back in the OIF days, the training and partnering we conducted never truly translated. The military decision-making process and patrolling may have been explained in Arabic, but never fully modified from the original Western school of thought for Iraqis to fully absorb.


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The New York Times  sees a fractured military:

The stunning collapse of Iraq’s army in a string of cities across the north reflects poor leadership, declining troop morale, broken equipment and a sharp decline in training since the last American advisers left the country in 2011, American military and intelligence officials said Thursday.

Four of Iraq’s 14 army divisions virtually abandoned their posts, stripped off their uniforms and fled when confronted in cities such as Mosul and Tikrit by militant groups, principally fighters aligned with the radical Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, the officials said.

The divisions that collapsed were said to be made up of Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish troops. Other units made up of mainly Shiite troops and stationed closer to Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, were believed to be more loyal to the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, a Shiite, and would most likely put up greater resistance, according to

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