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How Much More Handholding? « The Washington Independent

Hard as it can be to keep up with the latest Iraq predictions, there’s been an effort for the past several months to portray the Iraqi Army as increasingly competent and self-reliant. This, of course, has a long pedigree, as every single year — stretching back to Donald Rumsfeld in September 2003 — we’re told that the Iraqi security forces are getting better and better, but if we withdraw from Iraq the Iraqi security forces will… fall apart. That makes it impossible to give face-value credence to the claims of improvement in the Iraqi army and police, but just because it’s an expedient argument for the warmongers, doesn’t automatically make it a lie. In the Washington Post today, there’s a good story about the tough slog that the Iraqi Army is engaged in during the current operation in Diyala province:

Muhammed, his face gleaming with sweat, fumed about being taken off the job. After more than a decade of experience defusing bombs with the Republican Guard, he was deeply resistant to change. "I don’t think the Americans can see the wires on the ground. Only with eyes," he said, pointing at his own.

Although his pride was hurt, Muhammed said he needs the U.S. military for the bomb detectors and their batteries, bulbs, lights, cameras, handguns and, most important, explosives. "I haven’t received any explosives from the Iraqi army," he said. "The Americans usually provide all our needs."

I encountered that same logistics/equipment problem in March 2007 with the Baghdad police. The chain of command with the police was inefficient-to-incompetent, and that left policemen underequipped, leaving them with little choice but to request stuff from their American partners, who faced the frustrating choice of either encouraging dependency or sending their allies out for the slaughter.

It’s not exactly a problem that U.S. troops don’t recognize.

"A lot of our guys think the Iraqi army can’t handle it on their own," said 1st Lt. Mikeal Stojic, 26, of Deltona, Fla. "But we’re not going to have the manpower to hold the Iraqi hands all the way through." Stojic described the U.S. role as "a security blanket for a little kid."

"Just the fact we are there, it gives them the confidence to push through," he said.

So that suggests a way out: hold hands through next year, as Lt. Gen. James Dubik, the corps commander in Iraq general in charge of training Iraqi security forces, predicted would be sufficient for combat operations, and then stagger a withdrawal of combat forces that yield a training mission thereafter, phasing that out as necessary. That would be in line with the stated preferences of the Iraqi government, which ought to be an argument-ender unless we’re comfortable being the imperial masters of Iraq. If we’re really being told the Iraqi Army is almost to the finish line, it makes sense to act accordingly.

Update: Sorry for the error about Dubik’s position.

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