Sunday, February 22, 2015

Plan to retake Mosul may be flawed, but at least it is well known

The title of this post is meant as a bit of cynicism.  The total organization by the U.S. of a plan to retake Mosul, in northern Iraq, is deeply flawed.  It was announced on Thursday by American officials who detailed timing and the number of and source of troops involved.  As anyone should have known, this detailed disclosure was viewed as much too transparent by many, releasing war plans two months in advance. Under pressure, the defense department said that both the Obama White House and their new Secretary of Defense had not been briefed on these announcements.  What?  Is that meant to be a
positive comment? The hands off Obama management style has apparently infiltrated the culture of the Defense Department in an untenable way.  Can anyone imagine George W. Bush, who, to his credit or discredit, enjoyed starting every early morning with war briefings, or Bill Clinton, with his incessantly hands on management style, not being informed about such announcements and not being part of the decision making process.

While defense department officials spent Friday making up reasons why this announcement was a good idea, the thought that they would scare away ISIS militants seems remote, and beyond naive in its being part of this ongoing discussion.  If 1,000 to 2,000 ISIS militants can hold a city of 1 million people hostage, there is something bigger going on here.

Why is the plan flawed?  First, the statement is heavily based on the expected support and strength of the Kurdish pesh merga forces.  After months, more than a full year probably, of this blog(this important blog, Ha) repeatedly pointing out that the Kurds are fighting without adequate military support from the U.S. and its allies, meaning without up to date tanks, rocket launchers, reinforced  new trucks, and other equipment, they are a force that can only do so much.  ISIS has all of the best and newest equipment, all laid down by the Iraqi Army in its collapse almost a year ago.  Why the Kurd's dilemma?  They do not have the weapons because: 1. Obama continues to have some pipe dream of a completely unified Iraqi state, not even a set of federations under the umbrella of the Iraq state, and does not want that idea threatened and 2. supposed ally Turkey does not want a better armed Kurdish territory nearby, and 3. Iran, with whom the U.S. is in constant negotiation, doesn't mind a permanently hobbled Kurdish army either.  So the only defenders of Iraq with organization, discipline, and skill are given better rifles, medical supplies, and clothing, but not the weapons only they could and would use well against ISIS.

Second, the plan to draw 10,000 troops from the five most experienced Iraqi brigades and put them through several weeks of special training is a joke.  Several weeks?  The Iraqi army is permeated by a culture of corruption that does not just disappear in several weeks.  Most soldiers are only there because they are being paid, clothed, and fed.  Loyalty and commitment are not part of the deal, or at least it seems that way from here. The military leadership has looted the U.S. aid.  It is hoped that this view is wrong, or out of date but it is likely not.

The alternative comes down to bombing and partially destroying a city of 1 million people as was done with the much smaller Kobani in Syria, a Pyrrhic victory at best that is of course possible, accepting great loss of civilian property, health, and life.

The issue with the Iraqi army can be extended to the armies of Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Ukraine. All of those too were nurtured under a culture of immense corruption and they are not functioning or will not function in any cohesive and effective manner. They have little credible leadership within the ranks of the military.  All of the talk in the world will not correct that quickly, if at all.

That is a grim and sad assessment of the situation but, when looking at facts, it seems to be true.



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