Iraq military near 'psychological collapse'
American advisors filtering into Iraq have their work cut out for them. According to several military analyists, because of desertions, incompetent leadership, and low morale, the Iraqi army is near total 'psychological collapse' and it is doubtul they can win back territory seized by ISIS.
“Over time, what’s occurred is that the Iraqi army has no ability to defend itself,” said Rick Brennan, a Rand Corp. analyst and former adviser to U.S. forces in Iraq. “If we’re unable to find ways to make a meaningful difference to the Iraqi army as they fight this, I think what we’re looking at is the beginning of the disintegration of the state of Iraq.”
The U.S. government has sped up the supply of reconnaissance equipment since the Iraqi military’s rout in the key northern city of Mosul this month, but the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government has expressed frustration at the pace and scope of assistance.
The government’s dire situation was evident Sunday at the Baghdad Operations Command, the nerve center of the capital’s security operations, run jointly by the Interior and Defense ministries. Standing in front of an illuminated map, spokesman Brig. Gen. Saad Maan gestured toward the broad swaths of land outside the city’s boundaries that are now considered hostile territory.
“We treat all these areas surrounding us as hot zones,” he said. Though Maan claimed that security forces were taking the offensive in some areas, advances by the Sunni insurgents in the western province of Anbar over the past few days have raised concerns that the armed forces may crumble further.
Even before tens of thousands of troops disappeared into the night two weeks ago, Iraqi generals complained that they were outgunned by an enemy hardened by years of fighting in Syria and in possession of more advanced weaponry.
In recent weeks, ISIS has seized hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of military equipment from the Iraqi army, much of which has been smuggled back across the border to Syria, according to Iraqi officials. The frontier is now largely in the hands of ISIS, which seeks to create an Islamic caliphate stretching across Syria and Iraq.
Former Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffreies isn't confident the Iraqi army is up to the challege either:
“The basic problem with the Iraqi military is that it’s a sectarian force,” said James Jeffrey, a former U.S. ambassador to Iraq. “That’s combined with the fact that you have sycophantic generals, you have low morale and a Shiite volunteer force. They didn’t do very much training. They don’t have the equipment or skills of the [ISIS] guys.”
The crisis in the armed forces is a result of corruption, poor leadership and intelligence, and severe inattention to training, said a former U.S. adviser to the Iraqi armed forces who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation. Those problems have turned what was a functioning military when U.S. troops withdrew in 2011 into an “empty shell that is resorting to a call to arms of men and boys off the street,” he said. He added that the scale of the reverses this month has been “catastrophic.”
Is Iraq a lost cause? It's hard to see how anyone can put the pieces back together again. As my brother, ABC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Terry Moran pointed out on This Week, after having spent the last 10 days in Iraq, the army won't fight for Iraq, the government won't govern for Iraq, and the people have basically given up.
One of the many dangers for the US is that as we help the government fend off the terrorists, we are not seen by the Sunnis as helping Iraq as much as we are seen helping the Shiites. We may end up driviing the Sunnis and the terrorists closer together unless there is movement on the political front to create a national unity government that includes serious reforms so that Sunnis feel part of the country.
But the Shiites spent so long trying to get power, they are not going to give it up easily - especially when they see so many Sunnis cooperating with and supporting ISIS. If the Iraqi army is in as bad a shape as everyone thinks, the political reforms the US wants may not matter.