Quote of the day

“I say we just let them go and we do this ourselves.”

More (Bryan): The story Allah linked is an important one, so I hope you all take the time to read it. The upshot of it is that the Iraqi Army units involved in the fight described didn’t pull their weight and in fact goofed off and may have played both sides.

I imagine that the people least surprised by this behavior were the US troops there fighting alongside the IA. Our troops are training those guys how to fight, but even more basic than that, they’re training the IA how to be a professional fighting force. That’s going to take time, thanks to the way the IA operated under Saddam.

The troops at Camp Justice explained it to us this way. In the 1980s, the US military started reforming the way it teaches and trains management. It started bringing in business management models like TQM to instill a common management culture (I personally didn’t think much of TQM when the Air Force brought it on in the early 1990s, but never mind that). But even before that, we had the academies and ROTC programs to teach basic leadership and management. That was Washington’s basic idea for West Point: To maintain continuity in the military’s officer corps between conflicts, so we didn’t have to keep re-learning the same lessons of warfare over and over again.

The IA under Saddam has never had any of that culture at all. Officers tended to use their positions to enrich themselves and the enlisted were mostly conscripts who didn’t want to be there. Most officers weren’t managers in any real sense, they were just petty bosses and feudal lords. There was no real NCO echelon to work between the two and form the spine of their army, like our NCOs do. We’re having to change all of that, while the IA engages in warfare against many of its own people as well as external forces like the Iranians who are coming in and training the insurgents. It’s no easy task.

For the most part, the quality of a given IA unit depends very heavily on the quality and allegiance of its officers. Most IA officers still haven’t learned how to manage or lead and many aren’t sure if we’re going to be around very long so their allegiances are questionable (and they’re questionable for the usual sectarian and religious reasons too), so their units are not very useful. Throwing them into any fight can be counterproductive. There are some good IA officers, though, particularly in the Diwaniah area, who get it and are building a professional army where they can. They are also targets of the insurgents, and many good IA officers have been assassinated.

So the IA is a very mixed bag, and it’s going to take time to unmix it. If it’s possible to unmix it.