Monday, April 20, 2015

Depleted Iraqi Army Shocks U.S. Soldiers Who Trained It A Few Years Ago

American trainers spoke with Iraqi Army recruits at a 
military base on Sunday in Taji, Iraq. 
Credit John Moore/Getty Images
Lt. Col. John Schwemmer is here for his sixth Iraq deployment. Maj. James Modlin is on his fourth. Sgt. Maj. Thomas Foos? “It’s so many, I would rather not say. Sir.”
These soldiers are among 300 from the 5-73 Squadron of the 82nd Airborne Division of the United States Army, about half of them trainers, the rest support and force protection. Stationed at this old Iraqi military base 20 miles north of Baghdad, they are as close as it gets to American boots on the ground in Iraq.
Back now for the first time since the United States left in 2011, none of them thought they would be here again, let alone return to find the Iraqi Army they had once trained in such disrepair.
Colonel Schwemmer said he was stunned at the state in which he found the Iraqi soldiers when he arrived here. “It’s pretty incredible,” he said. “I was kind of surprised. What training did they have after we left?”
Apparently, not much. The current, woeful state of the Iraqi military raises the question not so much of whether the Americans left too soon, but whether a new round of deployments for training will have any more effect than the last.
An American trainer, in the doorway, instructed Iraqi recruits
 at the base in Taji. Credit John Moore/Getty Images
Iraq’s army looked good on paper when the Americans left, after one of the biggest training missions carried out under wartime conditions. But after that, senior Iraqi officers began buying their own commissions, paying for them out of the supply, food and payroll money of their troops. Corruption ran up and down the ranks; desertion was rife.
The army did little more than staff checkpoints. Then, last year, four divisions collapsed overnight in Mosul and elsewhere in northern Iraq under the determined assault of Islamic State fighters numbering in the hundreds or at most the low thousands, and the extremists’ advance came as far as this base.
Iraqi Army recruits training in Taji, Iraq, on Sunday. It 
once had 280,000 active-duty personnel, but the army 
is now thought to have as little as 50,000. 
Credit John Moore/Getty Images
An army that once counted 280,000 active-duty personnel, one of the largest in the world, is now believed by some experts to have as few as four to seven fully active divisions — as little as 50,000 troops by some estimates. The director of media operations for Iraq’s Ministry of Defense, Qais al-Rubaiae, said, however, that even by the most conservative estimates, the army now had at least 141,000 soldiers in 15 divisions.
Most of the American soldiers were intimately involved in training Iraqi forces before, too. “When I left in 2009,” Major Modlin said, “they had it, they really did. I don’t know what happened after that.”
Read the rest of the story HERE.

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