Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Is Iraq Ready to Handle Its Own Security Operations?

Today insurgents in Iraq mounted a two hour, 13 town assault as America begins its plans to draw down troops under 50,000 and will move from a combat operation to an "advise and assist" role in Iraqi security affairs. Unfortunately the attack today in Iraq, which killed at least 46 people (many police), underscores the ill-preparedness of Iraqi security forces to take over a very hostile situation created following the invasion of their country.

Obama is poised to announce the end of combat operations on August 31 in a major speech and I have this nightmare of it being Bush's "Mission Accomplished" all over again. Bush's speech aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln back in May of 2003 began like this:

Thank you all very much. Admiral Kelly, Captain Card, officers and sailors of the USS Abraham Lincoln, my fellow Americans: Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. (Applause.) And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country.
I worry that Obama is going to make the same type of declaration of "major combat operations in Iraq have ended," when in reality we may have to do a little more than "advise and assist." What is also worrisome is the plan to ramp up the effort in Afghanistan. It's not that Afghanistan is not in need of ramping up; it is. It is that when we first invaded Afghanistan and then ramped up efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan was neglected to the point of allowing the Taliban and Al-Qaeda to re-strengthen. The last thing I want to see is a focus on Afghanistan at the price of a re-energized insurgency in Iraq.

The reason I feel that this may happen is not the fact that insurgents were able to mount such an attack today in Iraq (though that in and of itself is disturbing), but the response to the attack. Like a scene out of Supertroopers (but more sad than funny), Iraqi troops and police physically fought each other at the scenes of the bombings, one fight resulting in shots being fired into the air. These are not the actions of security forces ready to take over security operations in a war-torn country.

The political situation is not much better than the security situation in Iraq. Despite holding elections in March, Iraqi politicians have yet to form a government. Further frustrating Iraqi citizens, public services like electricity are shoddy at best. The feelings of Iraqis seem best summed up by Saud Al-Sadi, a teacher in Sadr City:
“But until now, to tell you the truth, we haven’t grasped our sovereignty,” Mr. Saadi said. “There are still American troops here, they still raid houses, we don’t have a government that makes its own decisions and the American ambassador still interferes.”
What's worse is that young Iraqis seem to take the violence in stride, as if it is nothing out of the ordinary. After a car bomb exploded in Iraq, 20 year old Murtadha Mohammed told the New York Times, "Nothing unusual. We've been raised on this."

In short, Iraq seems ill-prepared to deal with the security of their own nation, as Obama and his administration is asserting. Brawls at the scenes of insurgent terrorism, citizens heckling police and Iraqi troops, and a general malaise amongst the population are indicators that this may not be the best time to hand over security operations. Yet that is exactly what we are doing. The question now is, will the Obama Administration continue with its plans despite these indicators?

Photo - Obama deplaning at Baghdad International Airport in August, 2009 (Mirror)

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