The Corner

Training Iraqis

Experts have been warning for some time that we are not putting enough effort into training Iraqis. Two piece today tend to confirm that. Here’s a Wall Street Journal report (behind wall):

President Bush has touted such advisory teams as key to the U.S. strategy for stabilizing Iraq and bringing American troops home. So Col. Demas and his troops expected some of the best instruction the Army had to offer. What they got was a “phenomenal waste of time,” the colonel wrote from Iraq last fall, in a report to his superiors…

Internal Army reviews and interviews with dozens of advisers show that, thus far, the Army hasn’t treated the advisory program as a priority. The job has often fallen to the military’s less seasoned second team: reservists, guardsmen and retirees called back to active duty. A 48-page Army study, finished in May and marked “For Official Use Only,” concluded that 10- to 12-man advisory teams are too small and “do not have the experience to advise in the various areas they are assigned.”

And here’s Max Boot saying much the same thing:

It’s not only a matter of money. We have more than 140,000 troops in Iraq, but fewer than 4,000 of them act as advisors. There are barely enough to go around for higher-level Iraqi headquarters; there are no “embeds” available to consistently operate at the company and platoon level, where most of the action occurs. The Iraqi police forces are even more neglected.

What’s more, some of the best and brightest American officers are being steered away from Iraqi units. Everyone in the U.S. armed forces knows that the way to the top is to command American units, not to advise foreign units — even if the latter task is more difficult and more important.

One Army officer who has served in Iraq and would be well qualified for an advisory role told me recently that he was asked to become an ROTC instructor at home but not an advisor in Iraq. Those he sees being sent to help Iraqis tend to have “marginal career prospects.” “No one is diverted from a school or command,” he told me. “No one is sent after a successful command.”

Boot also advocates the “if we’re not going to send more troops, send less” approach:

Perhaps because this would force a shake-up in the U.S. armed forces, with officers having to be pulled out of plum staff billets and field assignments. That’s a tough change to make, but it may be necessary. A country of 26 million can’t be controlled by 140,000 troops. If we’re not going to send a lot more soldiers, it might make sense to draw down to about 40,000 to 50,000 troops so that we could free up officers and NCOs for advisor duty. Iraq may be too far down the road to civil war for this step to make any difference, but we need to try something different to salvage a situation spinning out of control.

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