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Brigade Commander in Iraq Disagrees With Col. Reese’s Bleak View of Iraqi Troops

Last week I reported — ok, ok, fine, Michael Gordon at The New York Times scooped me by 20 minutes — that a senior military liaison to the Iraqi security forces, Col. Timothy Reese of Multinational Division-Baghdad, contended in a memo that the United States had done all it could to improve the performance of Iraqi troops. Further down south in Iraq, Col. Peter Newell of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, who’s working to improve Iraqi civilian and military capacity, has some disagreements with Reese.

“This is not Baghdad,” said Newell, whose brigade works closely with the 10th Iraqi Army Division in the southern Iraqi provinces of Thi Qar, Muthanna and Maysan. “I’m disappointed to see the article written the way it was.” While “certainly there are frustrations” in Baghdad or other parts of the country where U.S. troops work with Iraqi security forces, “here we have a relationship that has allowed us to continue to operate,” including the conduct of”joint operations on a daily basis” with the Iraqis, as well as abundant access to intelligence. In fact, Newell said, he has a better sense of what’s going on in his area of operations after the June 30 U.S. withdrawal from Iraqi cities and towns, because of “combined intelligence between our units and theirs.”

That said, I noticed in the comments of both my original piece and in the copy of the memo that TWI posted that some people who say they’re officers with recent Iraq experience have endorsed Reese’s conclusions. Here’s LuckyDen, who identifies himself as a captain who used to advise the same Iraqi Army division Reese now does:

I witnessed several corrupt Officers withhold money from their Iraqi soldiers (or attempt to) The junior leaders in the Iraqi Army (and most younger soldiers) are easily molded by their superiors but many of them impressed me with their ability to apply appropriate leadership to accomplish the mission. They are capable, if equipped, but the ISF [Iraqi security forces] are insufficiently supplied to the most basic levels. Food & Water are major hurdles let alone the equipment needed to defeat IEDs and collect intelligence on AQI [al-Qaeda in Iraq] or insurgent activity.

And here’s Iraqiadvisor:

I experienced the exact same “Sugar daddy” role as you describe during my last few tours working with ISF. The Iraqis know that we are leaving and want to take us for all they can, not in a devious sort of way, they figure let us pick up the tab while we are still here.

I did notice that ISF units that did not have US advisors (or a “Sugar daddy”) were some of the most capable ISF units because they had to develop on their own. At first glace these units may seem incompetent b/c they can’t perform US METL [Mission Essential Task List] tasks or they look a bit rag-tag. However these units have developed Iraqi solutions for Iraqi problems, and these solutions, are generally accepted by the Iraqi population.

And here’s mttadviser, which I assume is a reference to Military Transition Teams.

I met Col Reese a week ago when I had a IA pay problem to solve. From a CPT who is directly living/working/eating with the IA, this assesment is spot on. The United States at some point needs to learn that throwing money at a problem isn’t always the answer. Our MTT team is a “Sugar daddy” to the units that we are advising—not combat advisors. The IA don’t want our help—they just want us to do their work for them. At some point the IA will be faced to take a test without the teacher giving them the answers. It is time for the Eagle to kick it’s chicks out of the nest and force them to fly.

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