The Enemies Within The Iraqi Army
Given the story about our forces possibly pulling back, I thought I’d do some digging on the readiness of the Iraqi Army.
BAGHDAD â€“ The American soldier sitting next to me flipped open his Zippo lighter and gloomily lit a cigarette. â€œDo you know why this base isnâ€™t attacked by insurgents?â€ he said.
I assumed it was because his area of operations, in the Grayaâ€™at neighborhood of northern Baghdad out of Coalition Outpost War Eagle, had been cleared of insurgents. Many American military bases and outposts in Iraq are attacked by Al Qaeda terrorists and Mahdi Army militiamen with mortars and rockets. War Eagle was quiet and had not been bombarded for months.
â€œWe arenâ€™t being attacked because the Mahdi Army is in the next building,â€ he said. â€œThey donâ€™t want to hit their own people.â€
American soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division shared the small outpost with Iraqi Army soldiers who lived, worked, and slept in the building next door.
â€œYou mean the Iraqi Army unit here has been infiltrated?â€ I said.
He nodded grimly and took a pull from his cigarette.
“That’s a bad reason for us not to be mortared,” I said.
“Yeah,” he said and laughed. It was obvious, though, that he did not think it was funny.
So they might technically be ready to hold areas once we pull back and focus our attention elsewhere, but they could very well be undermined from within. And I can only imagine that this sort of thing is rampant since we’re so desparate to build up Iraqi forces.
Master Sergeant Jeffrey K. Tyler met with me privately.
â€œItâ€™s true,â€ he said. â€œMany of the Iraqi Army soldiers here are supporters of JAM.â€ JAM is military shorthand for Jaysh al Mahdi, or Moqtada al Sadrâ€™s radical Shia Mahdi Army militia. â€œThey arenâ€™t in JAM cells necessarily, but they are sympathizers. They may let JAM guys through checkpoints, for example. They arenâ€™t out kidnapping Sunnis or anything like that. They are sympathizers, not direct actors. Almost all the Iraqi Army soldiers here are Shias.â€
â€œIs their presence here the reason we arenâ€™t getting mortared?â€ I said. â€œBecause the Mahdi Army doesnâ€™t want to blow up their own people?â€
â€œWe think thatâ€™s probably so,â€ he said and nodded with confidence.
Still think pulling our troops out is a good idea? Again, this sounds like our previous plan that failed miserably. Go in, secure a place and then leave it to the Iraqi forces…who can’t or won’t defend it and so it goes to hell again.
And so it goes…