Over the last several years, we’ve moved closer and closer to placing training and cooperation with local partners as the center of our national security approach. Longtime readers of this blog and my old haunt at Abu M will note that many of these developments were met with some significant unease by me and other posters.
This is why:
A classified military assessment of Iraq’s security forces concludes that many units are so deeply infiltrated by either Sunni extremist informants or Shiite personnel backed by Iran that any Americans assigned to advise Baghdad’s forces could face risks to their safety, according to United States officials.
That isn’t all, unfortunately.
The report concludes that only about half of Iraq’s operational units are capable enough for American commandos to advise them if the White House decides to help roll back the advances made by Sunni militants in northern and western Iraq over the past month.
Echoes of Benghazi also crop up in this paragraph:
The Pentagon’s decision this month to rush 200 troops, plus six Apache helicopter gunships and Shadow surveillance drones, to the Baghdad airport was prompted by a classified intelligence assessment that the sprawling complex, the main hub for sending and withdrawing American troops and diplomats, was vulnerable to attack by ISIS fighters, American officials have now disclosed.
To be sure, none of this necessarily poses an insurmountable obstacle. However, it underscores a rather depressing confluence of the following factors:
- Host nation military units without capacity.
- An host nation government whose interests and political partners are not exactly aligned with US desires.
- Compromised host nation units with political allegiances to US enemies.
- Vulnerable US-operated complex that host nation forces cannot or will not defend.
- A rebellious, unreliable, and counterproductive client.
- Last, but not least, a state in which political authority is being contested by multiple, heavily armed factions. A state that the US seeks to guide toward a desired political outcome without committing much military resources or diplomatic attention.
These problems are simply the cost of doing business. It is not the apocalypse. But it is also not the frictionless world of security cooperation that we have been repeatedly promised over the last few years. Instead, what we have is a situation in which Americans could fight, kill, and die to hold ground against enemies within and without — alongside unreliable (at best) and/or treacherous (at worst) partners.