Brigadier General Vincent K. Brooks, the deputy commander of the U.S. division in charge of Baghdad, says that Iraqi security forces are a major cause of the lack of progress. Iraqis were expected to man checkpoints and conduct patrols. But, as we have seen so often in the past, Iraq hasn't delivered all the forces they promised, and in some cases, the forces that did show up have performed poorly. As a result, American commanders have been forced to clear some portions of the city multiple times.
The "surge" has turned into Operation Déjà Vu.
Try, Try Again
Once again, we've tried a new strategy in Iraq, but the pattern hasn't changed. We go into an area and the bad guys lie low or run away. We leave the area--or turn it over to Iraqis--and the bad guys come back. Significant portions of the Iraqi forces committed to an operation don't show up. The ones who do show up are unreliable and/or untrustworthy.
In an interview, General Brooks said, "we were way too optimistic." Planners originally expected most Baghdad neighborhoods to be under control by July, but now estimate that the objective can't be reached until September, when U.S. commander in Iraq General David Petraeus is scheduled to make a progress report to Congress. Lieutenant General Raymond T. Odierno, the number two commander in Iraq, says he never considered the July goal to be a realistic one. He too says fall is a more reasonable benchmark for establishing order in Iraq's capital, but that will depend on Iraqi forces making significant progress in the coming months.
But "significant progress" by Iraqi forces is a proven unrealistic expectation. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki says he has a fear of the Iraqi Army conducting a coup, and one senior Iraqi police commander estimates that fifty percent of his recruits belong to the militias.
To illustrate just how bad the police situation is, Cloud and Cave relate this confrontation between U.S. battalion commander Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Frank and Baghdad police officials.
At a weekly meeting where military commanders and police chiefs sit around a horseshoe-shaped conference table at one of the American bases, Capt. Adel Fakry, the Ameel police commander, complained that American soldiers on patrol were showing “distrust” toward his officers.
“The reason there is distrust,” Colonel Frank responded, his voice rising, “is because I have a video of six Iraqi officers placing a bomb against my soldiers, and they came from your station.”
There had been “some mistakes,” Captain Fakry responded, looking taken aback by the confrontation. Not all of the six officers were from his station, he added before ending the conversation by flipping open his cellphone and making a call while the meeting continued.
Some mistakes. Not all of the six officers were from his station.
Franks's experience was hardly an isolated incident. In March, U.S. troops discovered a group of Iraqis dressed in police uniforms setting up an armor piercing roadside bomb near a Baghdad bridge, using police vehicles to provide cover. The American troops killed two of the bombers, and discovered that one of them had a badge that granted him wide access to the Green Zone.
With allies like these, who needs enemies?
Arms and the Bad Man
Scott Cannon of the McClatchy Newspapers informs us that:
The U.S. military in Iraq has begun issuing American M-16 rifles to some Iraq troops in exchange for their AK-47 rifles, the cheap and sturdy weapon that currently hangs from the shoulder of virtually every Iraqi soldier, police officer, insurgent and militiaman.
This move is supposed to be a "vote of confidence" in Iraqi troops. It's really a vote of non-confidence. The ubiquitous AK-47 and its ammunition have been disappearing from Iraqi armories like pies from Aunt Polly's windowsill.
As Cannon notes, the Iraq Study Group report from late last year stated "there are ample reports of Iraqi police officers participating in training in order to obtain a weapon, uniform, and ammunition for use in sectarian violence." A 2006 audit by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction concluded that only two percent of the serial numbers of weapons the U.S. legally transferred into Iraq--ranging from pistols to rocker launchers--were recorded.
Rachel Stohl, a senior analyst with the Center for Defense Information, says that "The United States has no idea what happened to the majority of weapons it brought into the country." But we do know, she says, that, "…these weapons, in conjunction with the millions already in the country left from Saddam's era, are being used to perpetuate the violence and continued instability throughout Iraq."
So much for blaming Iran and Syria for arming Iraq's militants--we've been doing it ourselves. Giving Iraqi troops harder-to-traffic M-16s won't stem the tide of arms transfers to the bad guys. It's a fitness report bullet for some staffer that won't amount to a gob of spit in the Chesapeake Bay.
It's little wonder we won't have Baghdad secured by July. Or by September. Or by next September, or the September after that…
But don't worry. Homeland Security is keeping us safe. The JFK plot was foiled and Paris Hilton is in jail.