Thursday, December 07, 2006

A Fatal Catch-22 in Iraq?

Michael Gordon of the New York Times underlined what may be the Iraq Study Group’s primary recommendation:
Ever since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the United States has struggled in vain to tamp down the violence in Iraq and to build up the capacity of Iraq’s security forces. Now the study group is positing that the United States can accomplish in little more than one year what it has failed to carry out in three. In essence, the study group is projecting that a rapid infusion of American military trainers will so improve the Iraqi security forces that virtually all of the American combat brigades may be withdrawn by the early part of 2008 [emphasis added].
This strategy may involve a fatal Catch-22:
Catch-22 is a term, coined by Joseph Heller's novel Catch-22, describing a general situation in which an individual has to accomplish two actions which are mutually dependent on the other action being completed first…. In moving from school to a career, one may encounter a Catch-22 where one cannot get a job without work experience, but one cannot gain experience without a job.
Michael Gordon of the NYT continued:
In June, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the senior American commander in Iraq, developed a plan that called for gradually drawing down the number of American brigade combat teams by December 2007, to just 5 or 6 from the 14 combat brigades that were deployed at the time. In keeping with this approach, American troops in Baghdad began to cut back on their patrols in the capital, calculating that Iraqi security forces would pick up the slack. But no sooner did General Casey present his plan in Washington than it had to be deferred. With sectarian violence soaring in Baghdad, the United States reinforced its troops there. More American soldiers are now involved in security operations in Baghdad than Iraqi troops… since it is American forces that have often worked to curb the sectarian killings — and since many of the Iraqi forces have been infiltrated by sectarian militias — there is reason to believe that the civil strife will grow if the American combat forces soon begin to leave [emphasis added].
In one of Juan Cole’s reports we find this:
via satellite from Washington David Newton, a former US ambassador to Iraq… says that the US training of Iraqi soldiers to assume security command in Iraq will be useless if these soldiers "continue to behave on behalf of one side or another" after they finish their training [emphasis added].
Finally, Spencer Ackerman, in an American Prospect article wrote:
The bottom line, the commission says rather aptly, is "there are many armed groups within Iraq, and very little will to lay down arms”…. The commission is right about this. Where it goes wrong is in its recommendation that we should be actively supporting an Iraqi political process that is hostage to such dysfunction and sectarian chaos… it's because of this very deeply felt sectarian distrust that the training of Iraqi security forces has only served to equip and prepare more and more combatants for the civil war [emphasis added].
So here’s the Catch-22: we need to beef up our efforts to train Iraqi Security Forces so they can police and control sectarian violence in Iraq; but, to a significant degree, training these forces serves to equip and prepare more and more combatants in the sectarian violence; Catch-22.

If there is no “Iraqi Security Forces” purified of sectarian combatants and committed to a national unity government one cannot carry out the strategy of “rapid infusion of American military trainers… [to] improve the Iraqi security forces [so] that virtually all of the American combat brigades may be withdrawn by the early part of 2008.” To continue to train a sectarian-infiltrated “Iraqi Security Force” will only contribute to the very problem one is trying to solve.

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