William Kulin: 50% Of Iraqi Police Have Deserted
50% of Iraqi Police have Deserted
By William Kulin
Unfortunately for DoD planners, ''Iraqification'' isn't working. The US has made ''essentially no progress in increasing the number of Iraqi forces during the year 2004'', according to GlobalSecurity.org. While there were 210,000 Iraqi forces of various agencies on hand in January 2004, the total fell to 180,000 by October. These numbers simply refer to troops who are registered, most are not trained at all. The report's most startling finding is that the number of police has plummeted from 84,000 to 43,000 in the past eight months. The two main branches of the Iraqi military don't fare much better, with only 12,000 army enlisted so far, 41,000 national guard have now been recruited.
Most importantly, the US and the interim Iraqi government have so far failed to create an ethnically diverse Iraqi military, or instill it with anything resembling an esprit de corps. The poorly trained forces have been plagued by desertions and have generally failed to perform. It is also widely believed the Iraqi forces are heavily penetrated by insurgent spies, as evidenced by the constant attacks on police and army recruiting stations and, for example, the kidnappings and executions of national guardsmen - 12 were found executed near Mosul on November 20, and nearly 50 in southern Iraq on October 24. Several high-ranking interim Iraqi Ministry of Defense officials have also been assassinated, and, by some accounts, ministry bureaucrats are so intimidated by threats that the department has nearly ceased functioning.
Iraqi and American officials have fallen back on the dangerous strategy of using ethnic militias repackaged in new Iraqi military fatigues in order to instill ideological cohesion and overcome intelligence penetration. It is an open secret that the most effective unit to date (the 36th commando battalion that fought in Najaf and recently in Fallujah) are incognito Kurdish fighters. "The reality is there is no Iraqi army," wrote former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter in a recent article. "Of the thousands recruited into its ranks, there is today only one effective unit, the 36th battalion which should be recognized for what it really is (a Kurdish militia)." Ritter concludes that even this reasonably effective battalion "can only operate alongside overwhelming American military support".
The ethnic fissures were starkly demonstrated on November 11 in the ethnically diverse city of Mosul, when Sunni insurgents rose up in solidarity with besieged Fallujah. As the insurgents overran police stations, 3,200 of Mosul's 4,000 policemen fled their posts or joined the rebels, leading the governor to call in 2,000 national guard, who, it later emerged, were made up entirely of Kurdish militia. Sporadic violence and territorial competition have been a feature of Sunni Arab-Kurdish relations since the US invasion, particularly in the oil-rich, disputed city of Kirkuk. So the sight of thousands of Kurdish fighters roaming the streets of Mosul can only have increased Sunni fears that the US and new Iraqi government intend to weigh in on behalf of Kurdish claims.
In the absence of creative dialogue, US-Sunni relations have devolved into a blood feud. Interim Iraqi security institutions in Sunni areas are now "nonfunctioning and ... infiltrated by guerilla sympathizers" according to a November 18 Associated Press report, and the US military faces "organized, region-wide resistance", in the words of former US Defense Intelligence Agency analyst Jeffrey White. "The resistance is fighting harder, smarter and more effectively than the Iraqi military did during the war," White told the Washington Post. What the growing instability in Iraq and deepening ethnic tensions exacerbated by US policy mean is that "coalition" troops will be in Iraq for the long term (50 years?). The newly emboldened Bush administration is unlikely to change course to accommodate the Iraqi opposition. What remains is a long bloody occupation, with a distinct possibility that the US military will make a desert of the Sunni triangle and call it peace.