US advisers give dark assessment of state of Iraqi military
This report from McClatchy describes the US military's initial assessment of the Iraqi security forces and their ability to defend against the Islamic State and its allies as well as push the group out of its strongholds in Anbar, Diyala, Salahadin, and Ninewa provinces. The assessment is "grim," as McClatchy states. At least four Iraqi Army divisions have fallen apart, and the remaining Iraqi units are compromised by poor leadership, or Shia militiamen and Sunni infiltrators. Additionally, the Islamic State has made significant gains in northern Babil, just south of Baghdad.
The initial U.S. assessment, which arrived at the Pentagon Monday, apparently is just as grim. In one of its most alarming findings, according to a Pentagon official, the advisers concluded that while Iraqi troops could defend Baghdad against an attack now, they would be unable to launch the kind of offensive maneuvers required to fend off the insurgents for the long term, leaving the capital at continued risk. The official asked to remain anonymous because he had not been authorized to discuss the report.
The advisers also warned that the majority of Iraqi brigades are infiltrated by either Sunni extremists or Shiite militias, the official said.
The assessment will inform the Pentagon's recommendations to President Barack Obama on possible options in Iraq, though there is no public time line for when such recommendations could arrive at the White House. In the meantime, the assessment teams remain in Baghdad, where they would become advisers to the Iraqi military should the White House authorize that step.
As the Pentagon drafts it recommendations, the size of the Iraqi debacle in June is becoming increasingly clear:
Four Iraqi army divisions have simply disappeared and won't be easily resurrected.
The 2nd Division was routed from Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, on June 9 at the beginning of the Islamic State's advance, and its four brigades have dissolved.
The 1st Division also is basically gone, losing two brigades in Anbar province earlier in the year, then two more during last month's Islamic State onslaught, including one brigade that in the words of the senior Iraqi politician was "decimated" in Diyala province northeast of Baghdad.
The same is true of Iraq's 3rd Division. The division's 6th and 9th Brigades fled the Islamic State's advance in the north, and the status of its 11th Brigade is unknown. A small unit of its 10th Brigade is still in Tal Afar, but it is trapped by Islamic State forces.
The 4th Division also was routed. Half its members have disappeared -- many suspect they were massacred when the Islamic State captured Tikrit -- and only one small unit is known to still exist, surrounded by Islamists at a one-time U.S. military base near Tikrit known as Camp Speicher.
The Iraqi media -- which has been ordered by the government to release only good news about operations in order to promote morale, with threats of prison for journalists who fail to spin events positively -- asserts that an operation cleared the road between the key Iraqi city of Samarra and Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown.
But the effort in fact appears to have stalled 20 miles outside Tikrit. "It's heavily contested and the army and militias can't make headway," the politician said. "There are too many explosive devices on the road."
Read the entire article. Two additional points below:
1) It is likely that more than four Iraqi Army divisions have dissolved. The 7th Division, based in Anbar, is probably inoperable; the Iraqi government's deployment of 4,000 Shia militiamen to Ramadi is sure proof that both the 1st and the 7th are no longer viable fighting forces. Also, the armored convoy (likely a company or more) in Khalidiyah that was ambushed and destroyed was from the 9th Division (the 9th has M1 tanks), which is further evidence that the two Anbar-based divisions are offline. See LWJ report, Islamic State routs Iraqi armored column in Anbar, from two days ago.
Additionally, the 5th and 12th divisions, based in the Tigris River Valley in Salahaddin province north of Baghdad in Tikrit, are also likely to have been dismantled. Reports have surfaced that Iranian-backed Shia militias are guarding the road from Baghdad to Samarra.
Meanwhile the 17th Division, which is in the Sunni Triangle just south of Baghdad, may have reached its breaking point. It has launched numerous offensives in an effort to retake Jurf as Sakhar since the beginning of the year, only to have failed each time.
2) Read the LWJ report, A protracted struggle ahead for Iraq, which was published by Bill Ardolino and me on June 24. Weeks before the US military's assessment, we noted that the likelihood of the Iraqi military retaking areas lost during the Islamic State's offensive was slim to none absent significant support from the US. The Iraqi military's inability to retake control of Anbar province since the beginning of January should have made that all too clear.