Exhausted and bereft, Iraqi soldiers quit the fight

After months of grinding conflict against a resurgent militant movement, the Iraqi Army is having its power blunted by a rise in desertions, turning the tide of the war and fragmenting an institution, trained and funded by the United States, that some hoped would provide Iraqis a common sense of citizenship.

In a nation tearing apart along sectarian lines, Sunnis and Shiites have served together in the military. But the defections of Sunni soldiers threatened to deepen the growing perception among Iraq’s Sunnis that the military serves as an instrument of Shiite power, even while Shiites soldiers have also fled…

The fleeing troops left weapons, vehicles and even their uniforms behind, as militants took over at least five army installations and the city’s airport. In a desperate bid to stem the losses, the military was reduced to bombing its own bases to avoid surrendering more weapons to the enemy. American officials who had asserted that the $14 billion that the United States had spent on the Iraqi security forces would prepare them to safeguard the country after American troops left were forced to ponder images from Mosul of militants parading around captured Humvees.