Reality v. Bush, Part 2

From Holden:

Chimpy, last night:

And, third, we’re striking terrorist targets while we train Iraqi forces that are increasingly capable of defeating the enemy. Iraqis are showing their courage every day, and we are proud to be their allies in the cause of freedom.

And in the real world…

Just two days before a mission to send hundreds of Iraqi soldiers after insurgents in this troubled western part of Iraq, U.S. and Iraqi commanders confronted an untimely problem — an Iraqi battalion commander was suddenly fired for incompetence.

The commander’s soldiers, a third of those assigned to the mission, would be absent for an operation designed in part to introduce the unit to residents in this town between the troubled cities of Ramadi and Fallujah, about 50 miles west of Baghdad.

The missing battalion underscored what U.S. commanders call the Iraqi army’s most glaring weakness in this restive part of the country: a shortage of soldiers able to take on their own “battle space,” or areas where they are primarily responsible for security.

[snip]

The lack of Iraqi troops has complicated not only the operation in Bidimnah early Sunday, but also the broader mission here in Anbar province.

American commanders said an entire Iraqi brigade, about 2,500 troops, has taken over parts of the nearby city of Khaldiyah and an adjacent agrarian area from U.S. troops. But U.S. military advisers who mentor the Iraqi unit said just over half those assigned Iraqi soldiers were actually present.

The Iraqi brigade already was short several hundred soldiers before they deployed to Anbar province from the northern city of Mosul, the advisers said, and about 500 more deserted when they arrived in late August and faced their first insurgent attacks.

[snip]

Moreover, an Iraqi army policy giving soldiers 10 days of leave each month means even fewer soldiers are available. Fewer than 1,000 Iraqi troops are consistently stationed in this area if the soldiers on leave are deducted — so this brigade was in reality about a third of its size on paper.

“A lot of them, when they were told they were coming to Jazeera and Habaniyah, they quit,” said Marine Staff Sgt. Juan Santiago of New York City, speaking of two towns just outside Bidimnah. Santiago saw more than half his trainees quit the Iraqi army over the fall.

[snip]

The problems with the brigade hint at the obstacles that loom for U.S. commanders eager to cut American troop obligations in Iraq. A full withdrawal of U.S. forces would require Iraqi forces to take over large swaths of violent Anbar province, but so far only a handful of Iraqi forces have done so in relatively small areas.

[snip]

The American teams have struggled to fill shortages of competent Iraqi officers, Newell said. Shortly before the Iraqi battalion commander was dismissed, Newell was forced to pull his trump card — withdrawing his advisers from the battalion — to force the Iraqi commander to stop reckless tactics such as traveling on roads known to have roadside bombs.

“Unfortunately, the (Iraqi) officers here are much like their soldiers — they’re not in it for any sense of patriotism. They’re doing this to get paid,” Newell said