“Lack of adequate logistical support”

Logistics "The Iraqi Army presently must rely on US logistical support to conduct the majority of its operations. It currently lacks critical support services such as transportation, medevac capabilities, medical logistics, and intelligence. Until the Iraqi Army can develop these capabilities, it will continue to depend on US forces for support."


There are a number of related things about the situation in Iraq that continue to bother me.  One of them came into clear focus today when I heard a "talking head" (British) mention the lack of "underpinning" and military "infrastructure" possessed by the new army that we have been building in Iraq.

Armies are famously dependent on their logistical "tail," that is the aggregation of all the services an army needs to exist and operate and the organizations which fulfill those needs.



-Medical service



Add some more categories if you like.

The old Iraqi Army had all these services.  That was one of the good reasons for not abandoning it as an institution.  I am familiar with the argument that the old Iraqi Army had disbanded itself and I reject that argument because the officers and men who manned the above listed services were still present in the country and could have been brought back into service to resume performing the jobs they had done all their professional lives.  These men had sustained a long, long war against Iran and had continued to sustain what was left of their army through many years of sanctions and Saddam’s idiocy.  They could have done the job.

Bremer is eager to take credit for the dissolution of that army and its replacement with a madcap collection of semi-militia national guard units, a tiny, under-equipped border defense force and a lot of police.  This has "morphed" into a sizable army which is still under-equipped for combat against both the insurgents and the true sectarian militia armies from whom the army will ultimately and inevitably have to wrest control of Iraq.

To make that worse, much worse it now seems clear to me that this army that we have been creating is almost entirely an organization made up of headquarters and combat units…  As it is now, the Iraqi army depends on the coalition for its logistics.

Well, folks, we need to have a discussion about that.  Until the Iraqi Army can sustain itself, we coalitionists can never leave without leaving behind us a collapsing force.

Pat Lang


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58 Responses to “Lack of adequate logistical support”

  1. ked says:

    no problem, Col. Lang, outsource it! the scheme is for Iraq to acquire those services from US contractors, paid for via US aid agreements (offset with oil futures?). Uncle Sam Wants You! – to start a war business.

  2. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Ah! Rumsfeld as generalissimo again…
    Could be.
    Unfortunately, the same problem is as likely to exist for the IA as for ours in a lot of situations.
    Logistical contractors work so long as you can provide them security.
    When you can’t, they stop working. pl

  3. Matthew says:

    Col Lang: Maybe we should refer to the “New Iraqi Army” as a Constabulary. Oh, well, at least their uniforms aren’t Black and Tan.

  4. John Shreffler says:

    Col., you have an outstanding blog. Many thanks. Matthew is spot on about the Iraqi “Constabulary.” We had one of those in the Philippines pre-1941, so the idea’s not new. It seems to me that there’s no greater reason to expect the Iraqi Constabulary to be able to fend for itself than there would have been for the Philippine one. Not enough time available in either case. Logistics are the least of the problems confronting the Iraqis. Their own version of Japan abuts them to the east and owns half the country already, to whit Iran.

  5. W. Patrick Lang says:

    My father was an officer of the Phillipine Constabulary, having previously been a sergeant in the 26th Cavalry Regiment (Phillipine Scouts).
    The constabulary before 1935 was strictly a rural police operation. It dealt with criminals of various sorts and handfuls of Igurot, Ifugao or Moro “bandits” as occasions warranted. It remained a police force until it was essentially subsumed by the new Filipino army that MacArthur set out to build after 1935. Perhaps it is the Army of the Commonwealth of the Phillipines that you are thinking of.
    My dad’s setup in the Mountain Province in the 20s and 30s was typical. He had a bunch of police stations and 50 odd mounted constables. Stone tipped arrows and old Spanish rifles were the threat.
    The Iraqi army is going to have to fight enemies as tough and as heavily armed as the ones we have met in Iraq, and the ones that the Izzies have just bounced off of in Lebanon.
    Are you suggesting that Iraq is a colonial posession of the United States and we will be there permanently to “back them up” as the US Army was there to “back up” the PI Constabulary and later the Commonwealth army? pl

  6. Matthew says:

    Well, if John wasn’t suggesting it, I am.

  7. Ash says:

    Iraqi forces cannot have a bona-fide administrative-support ‘tail’ until their government runs the country without control from interlopers.
    As the recent engagement between Israel and Hz/Lebanon demonstrates, although it clearly can be argued that Israel won on point (if destruction of infrastructure is a criterion for example), they lost emotively, not only because they didn’t clearly ‘win’ in the field, but also because Hz was increasingly seen as a creditable and very brave (therefore spiritually honorable) group, which is therefore inspiring, whereas Israel, as the politically and technologically superior power in the region, functioned mainly – or merely – as a misguided bully, meaning that as long as their opponents fought bravely and skilfully (which they did) they couldn’t ‘win’.
    This shows that there is more to military force than factual results alone. This means that overall policy and vision are important.
    America ‘won’ in Iraq military speaking, no question about it. But then what?
    Arguing about this sort of thing by comparing fundamental religious doctrine is missing the point; but at some point the underlying vision, and therefore morality, of overall policy is of key importance. As results on the ground have been showing most vividly.
    Is anybody learning, that is the question…

  8. zanzibar says:

    “Are you suggesting that Iraq is a colonial posession of the United States and we will be there permanently to “back them up” as the US Army was there to “back up” the PI Constabulary and later the Commonwealth army?” pl
    Unless the next President decides to change course, I am afraid that we will be there and will have to back the Iraqi force du jour. As our current President has stated he has no plans to change much of anything and it seems like he is proceeding on the basis of a “permament” presence. A question is if he will be successful at “colonialism” like the Brits where with their divide and rule approach.

  9. Vinnie says:

    Col Lang
    Is it possible that the lack of logistical support units in the New Iraqi Army is by design, i.e. a pretext for US forces to remain in Iraq permanently?

  10. greco says:

    If you don’t plan to leave Iraq under any circumstances, the lack of logistics for the iraki army is a non event.

  11. Marcello says:

    The reason for lack of supporting services might be the overriding need to put as many iraqi soldiers in the field, while logistics can be handled by some american guys from the relative safety of some base.Why dedicate men and effort to something which does not produce immediate results anyway?
    Thus building an army which can actually stand on its own us put on the back burner.
    And besides why would you want a really independent Army?
    Politics wise, wouldn’t an army which does the fighting and dying but is completely reliant on the US for everything be a better solution from the american POV?
    Furthermore it is not just the logistics that has been neglected.If the info I have is correct (and please, please correct me if I am not right) the iraqi army is fielding two mechanized brigades plus many infantry battalions without any artillery.
    Nothing bigger than mortars, not even a single battery of towed howitzers.Zero, nothing, nada.Antiarmor and air defense got the same amount of attention. I would understand a lower priority but total neglect of artillery and such when you are fielding brigade size formations seems a bit strange to me, if true.But it would offer some clues about the purpose of such force and the amount of trust placed on them.

  12. canuck says:

    Col. Lang, is there a possibility Muqtada al-Sadr would now be feeling embolden enough by Hizbollah’s example to attempt a coup d’état of the elected Shiite government?

  13. FB says:

    Col, to answer your last question : wasn’t that the original Rumsfeld plan? A lightly armed IA which would need US support against both domestic and foreign enemies. To be provided by US troops based in-country, and paid for out of oil taxes (not revenue, since oil was to be privatized). A colony? Yes, in all but name.

  14. Glen says:

    Here’s the short answer:
    Iran will do it for it’s chunk of Iraq, Turkey will do it for it’s part and the rest of Iraq (the part with lots of Sunnis and no oil) will be on it’s own.
    I realize this is a simplistic answer, but we cannot ignore the fact that weather the US stays in Iraq or leaves is a domestic US political issue (as are all Bush WH decisions) and not a US foreign policy issue.
    Just my two cents,

  15. Ghostman says:

    I believe that the White House position on withdrawal is “when conditions on the ground permit”, or something close. I would surmise that it would take another 2-3 years to build up a working military infrastructure. So….we’ll be there…how long? A couple of additional thoughts:
    1. Col. Lang has written of our own long logistics tail to re-supply. If we remain in Iraq, but scale back to only logistics troops for sustenance of the Iraqi army…we still have that same logistics weak spot. OR, if Iraqi trucks come down to Kuwait for supplies, the weak spot still exists. When the insurgents decide to go after the supply lines…katy bar the door.
    2. I continue to suspect that many of the police force and army forces are infiltrated by persons loyal to various insurgent groups. And if we hand over supplies and equipment to the Iraqi army? We might find many instances of hand grenades, machine guns, mortars, etc. winding up in the hands of the insurgents. For instance, our own mortars are pretty darn good. Suppose a half dozen mortars and shells get into the hands of the trouble-makers. Suddenly, we experience pin-point attacks into the Green Zone or into one of our bases.
    Are we in quicksand?

  16. ckrantz says:

    Iraq as a colonial posession or a protectorate of United States? Whether or not that was the intent wasn’t it the effect of the Bremer CPA and it’s plans for Iraq? If the plans had worked it would have left a weak central state totaly dependent of outside protection. With Iraqs resources open for the approved companies to exploit.
    Of course the plans didn’t work and the ME region as a whole is now in danger of total disintegration like Byman and Pollack op-ed in WaPo suggest today.

  17. tregen says:

    US Military
    Air support: Yes
    Armor: Yes
    Communications: Yes
    Artillery: Yes
    Transportation: Yes
    Military Industry: Yes
    “smart” munitions: Yes
    Naval support: Yes
    Special Forces: Yes
    Capacity to win war in Iraq: ?
    Iragi Military
    Any of the Above: No
    Not only is the Iraqi military unable to stand up and take over, the US cannot afford to actually build a real army in Iraq for fear of misuse against the population. Arming a bunch of men with old AK-47s and a half ass collection of body armor does not an army make.

  18. KissMyChaddis says:

    The reason for the existence of the Iraqi ‘Army’ is twofold.
    1. Absorb and amalgamate the various militias currently supporting the US
    2. Help reduce American Army body count by using the expendable Iraqis where possible.
    Building up a foundation for a long lasting and free standing force is not on the agenda. What do you wanna do? snatch the food from the mouths of hungry US constractors?

  19. KissMyChaddis says:

    New article by the War Nerds out. It’s a wrap up of the Lebanon war so far.
    I guess you can tell I like this guy 🙂 No bullshit and no spin. He (mostly) tells it like it is.

  20. Walrus says:

    You’ve made a very telling point Col. Lang. I would also like to suggest that the reality is worse than that because all those services you mention require infrastructure, and that infrastructure needs to be defended and protected.
    I guess my point is that I doubt that even if the Iraqi army could magically be provided with infrastructure and support services, that it would be capable of protecting them from insurgents, let alone mounting any sort of combat operations.
    On a totally different note, I’ve read somewhere (here?) that American commanders are under orders to minimise casualties, and as a result, troops are spending most of their time stuck in FOB’s – forward operating bases. Recently the insurgents have started firing rockets into these bases. The only cure I know for this is very aggressive and constant patrolling by day and night until you know every rock and blade of grass within twenty five miles, and I’m not sure this is happening.
    I’m getting an extremely uncomfortable feeling that the endgames in Iraq will look like reruns of Dien Bien Phu or worse. You know – the good guys sitting in the fort while the Indians circle around outside. All the insurgents need is sufficiently bad weather to preclude air support.

  21. dougjnn says:

    Col. Lang—
    Does the Iraqi Army have any worse logistics than the Sunni or Shi’a militias?
    The hopeful unified country scenario seems to be passing us by. The Shi’a who won the election and the previous constitutional drafting and ratifying battles haven’t been willing to soften their take enough to convince the great bulk of Sunni sectarian insurgents to stop their strikes against Shi’a. Particularly with a clear and eqiuitable oil revenue sharing plan, as opposed to allowing regions to potentially keep much for themselves, thereby cutting the oil poor central Sunni regions out. Maliki hasn’t moved enough and it’s all taken too long for the low levels of patience. For the last six months the Shi’a have been striking back with terror raids of their own, and are starting to gain the edge as I understand it. I don’t see how any of this is going anywhere but worse.
    I assume what would happen if we left would be a low tech fairly low intensity combat that was very bloody, didn’t follow the rules of war at all on any side, that often targeted civilians, and that ended up ethnically cleansing and separating Baghdad neighborhoods and other mixed communities.
    It seems likely to me that the Iraqi army would soon fight pretty exclusively on the Shi’a side of the sectarian battle, with Kurds going home up north (to the extent there are any in the Bagdhad parts of the IA now) and Sunnis deserted for their sectarian militias.
    I imagine after awhile the Shi’a would win decisively since they are much larger in number and have at least as good an arms supplier (Iran) as the Sunni side — which relies on hidden caches from the Saddam days and some smuggled in arms from Jordan and Syria I’d guess. The Shi’a are likely to be as brutal as necessary to cause the Sunnis to really stop. A strongman will rise to the top, either as a man behind the elected President Malaki or as an outright Shi’a dictator. That could well turn out to be Muktadar Sader.
    If the Shi’a win is less decisive and really protracted then the country would split in three I’d imagine. I can’t see a Sunni victory over the whole country. They don’t have any monopoly on heavy arms (no one has much) or on a willingness to die or kill the other sides civilians. Further I don’t think Iran would let Sunnis seize control of southern Iraq. If we kept some sort of force in the region (40k?), say at Qatar, that plus our air forces could presumably deter the Iranians from simply rolling in with a large regular conventional army. But using commandos and militia trainers and suppling arms etc they could I’m pretty sure keep the South out of Sunni control.
    So in any of these scenarios we have either all of Iraq or the most oil rich southern part at least closely allied with Iran, or possibly their puppet. Certainly in the near and middle term.
    I don’t see how we avoid that if we stay for another 4 years. It’s simply in the cards in any scenario where Iraq’s major military power has been crushed and Sunnis don’t dictatorially control the whole country with that military.
    Any thoughts?

  22. julie putam says:

    In the “Assasin’s Gate” book the author quotes an officer under Garner who was deep in negotiations with Iraqi officers representing units that had held 100,000 troops when Bremer not only ended the negotiations, but cut off pay. They pay was later reinstated after protests, but of course the result was many of these officers becoming the enemy.
    The usual claim is a lie.

  23. John Shreffler says:

    Col. ,
    I see that the thread took up my idea and ran with it. If you dismantle a running army with all the trimmings and replace it with a police force, it isn’t too far a stretch to imagine the intent to create a lasting protectorate. The current Iraqi army reminds me of the Indian Princely state formations or the Philippine Constabulary. Neither seem to have been intended to stand on their own and the current Iraqis seem quite like. Even assuming that self-sufficiency is our current goal for them, I just don’t see them getting the time they’d need, given where they stand right now.

  24. Marcello says:

    “Iragi Military
    Any of the Above: No”
    Actually while they lack most of the above they have approximatively 90 tanks (T-72M1s for the most part) and a few hundreds of APCs and IFVs.
    “I continue to suspect that many of the police force and army forces are infiltrated by persons loyal to various insurgent groups. And if we hand over supplies and equipment to the Iraqi army? We might find many instances of hand grenades, machine guns, mortars, etc. winding up in the hands of the insurgents.”
    The new iraqi army has already all of the above, included possibly some automatic grenade lauchers as well.
    “For instance, our own mortars are pretty darn good. Suppose a half dozen mortars and shells get into the hands of the trouble-makers.”
    The iraqi guerrillas have already plenty of mortars.
    The M120 may have a relatively greater range than the M43 or whatever the locals are using, but it still a pretty conventional smoothbore design.

  25. JDL says:

    I suspect that the grand plan of the Bushies is to build the Iraqi army strictly as a light infantry force, with air, armor and logistics provided by the US. This justifies the building of the 4 superbases in Iraq as permanent installations.
    I suspect all along Rumsfeld wanted these permanent bases in Iraq as his Mid-east focal point. I doubt he has any intention of letting Iraq have a truly independent capable military. That way, the US will permanently have leverage over the Iraqi political class so they do our bidding. Unless a new Administration changes things, I see 30,000 troops in Iraq forever.

  26. Frank Durkee says:

    One of the things I remember reasing in I think th HYT before the Iraq war was that the US planned, the, to transfer its military staging area to Iraq. That was to keep us in the area but out of the Saudi’s hair. Based on Bin Ladens stated drive to get us away from the two Holy Cities. So this may have been on the boards since the get go.

  27. Glen says:

    Was standing down the Iraqi army just one of those snap decisions made in a vacuum or was there any plan as to how to re-constitute the army from scratch? I agree with you that there is no real effort being made to make an Iraqi army.
    My comment about domestic politics has a similar concern. There is, at present, no real effort being made in the US to enact the necessary measures to provide for our efforts in Iraq. We need to be telling the citizens of the US the truth about Iraq. We need a larger and better funded army that can put more boots on the ground. We need to be able to enact a Marshall Plan to rebuild the Iraqi nation. We need to seriously change directions on our own DOMESTIC effort for Iraq or we will fail.
    Right now, I would guess that the Bush WH level of commitment is only enough to prolong the inevitable until Bush is no longer in office, but not to actually do enough to prevail. It is also quite possible he will come under enough political pressure at home to declare victory and begin withdrawals prior to him leaving office. Bush is now politically unable or unwilling to take the measures required at home to win the peace in Iraq.
    I have read about Baker’s commission on Iraq:
    I hope they are successful, but they do not seem to trying to figure out how to fix Iraq as much as limit the damage when we leave. So it would seem that Bush is giving up, since any serious chance at success has to begin in the US by changing directions and making a considerable effort. Without this, we just do not have the means to achieve success.
    Just my two cents,

  28. Bob Gaines says:

    It seems pretty clear that the administration has – at least up until now — planned to keep permanent bases in Iraq.
    GlobalSecurity.org has a good history of administration statements and actions on the permanent bases at http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/facility/iraq-intro.htm which reproduces an April 3 CSM article that includes: “So far, though, it seems clear that the Pentagon would prefer to keep its bases in Iraq. It has already spent $1 billion or more on them, outfitting some with underground bunkers and other characteristics of long-term bases. The $67.6 billion emergency bill to cover Iraq and Afghanistan military costs includes $348 million for further base construction…. Pike suspects the US will find ‘all kinds of reasons’ for not leaving Iraq. For instance, the US has been training Iraqi combat units, but not support units. The Iraqis rely on being resupplied by the US and its allies. The Iraqi military has no combat planes and only a couple of dozen tanks. Iraq, says Pike, is a US ‘protectorate.’ It hasn’t yet built ‘a real army.'”
    Both the Senate and the House overwhelmingly approved language barring funds in the emergency supplemental from being used for permanent bases, but the conference committee removed the prohibition and the supplemental became law without it. Now both houses have included the prohibition in the 2007 Defense Authorization Bill (although the Senate has not yet voted on the final bill). Who wants to bet that the conference committee won’t once again jettison the prohibition?

  29. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I am afraid that I am reduced to a simple concern for US forces. pl

  30. still working it out says:

    “I suspect that the grand plan of the Bushies is to build the Iraqi army strictly as a light infantry force, with air, armor and logistics provided by the US. This justifies the building of the 4 superbases in Iraq as permanent installations.”
    That is what i concluded as well.

  31. John Shreffler says:

    Col. ,
    I share your concern about the troops. We ought to be getting closer to our logistic bases, reducing our LOC. Our troops are in danger of being cut off if, as I think likely, the Iranian crisis reaches the ignition point. Our LOC runs through Shiastan, which is totally penetrated by Iranian Special Ops. My point about the Iraqis lacking time rests on the strong feeling I have in my gut that Iran is about to ignite. By the way and completely OT, the 26th Cav. was one of our best. Your father was fortunate. Wish I could have served with them too. (I’m a part Cheyenne Okie and felt the acute lack of horses in the Sixties when I wanted a military career.)

  32. John says:

    It is clear the adminstration plans to keep Iraq as an oil protectorate; and justifies it by trotting out the discredited domino theory with an Islamic tint. In Iraq there is middling effort to stand-up an internal logistics structure, unsurprisingly similar to the case in South Vietnam; or the French in Algeria or Indo-China which also made little effort to stand-up local self-sufficient logistics. Even Afghanistan’s Karzai realizes he’s been abandoned as a less than an economy of force theater and refuses to run for another term. As to the funds spent on bases in Iraq – it’s all sunk costs, (when the Pentagon wants to call it sunk costs) – there are no investments. (Subic Bay NS? Clark AB? Zweibrucken AFB? Clay Kaserne? etc.)

  33. W. Patrick Lang says:

    My old man was one of the “old breed.” I went to VMI on his recommendation because he had known officers from there in the regiment, and they were fine fellows and good soldiers.
    He was not an easy man.
    He was first sergeant of “E” troop at Camp John Hay until he went to the Constabulary.
    In 1970 I reported to the NATO headquarters in Izmir, Turkeywhere I found that the chief of staff was MG John Boles whose father had commanded the regiment when dad had been first sergeant of one of the troops. My father had taught him to ride.
    We were fast friends, hunting and diving companions and he was like an uncle. pl

  34. Glen says:

    Sorry, I think I’m beating a long dead horse that’s also somewhat off subject.
    My apologies,

  35. Duncan Kinder says:

    Just to refresh people’s memory, the United States did not originally intend that the Iraqi military should “stand up” as the United States’ military “stood down.”
    Rather, the original plan was that Europeans would replace the Americans, much as they had done so in the first Gulf War, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan.
    It is remarkable how rapidly we have forgotten that this was the perceived relationship between the United States and European militaries until the Iraq War and that this relationship had been the topic of widespread prewar discussion.
    However, the United States, particularly during the Bush administration, had grown increasing arrogant and conveyed the message that it could dictate rather than negotiate European assistance.
    Needless to say, this arrogance provoked a backlash; so European assistance did not occur.
    The dissolution of the Iraqi military resulted because the United States erroneously believed that it would be unnecessary. Only after it became clear that no European assistance would materialize did Iraqification emerge as a strategy.
    So the military bungling which Col. Lang describes result from prior diplomatic bungling.

  36. Walrus says:

    Excellent post re the use of RPG’s in Lebanon.
    The VC on patrol did the same thing in Vietnam with the second scout carrying the RPG.
    If they made contact the scout fired the RPG at head height in the direction of the most noise.
    The net result is that people would drop flat because they knew what was coming…..
    There are quite a few Australian Vietnam Vets who have these little tiny scars all over the backs of their necks – a sure sign they were in infantry and had tangled with an RPG.
    The use of the RPG really gives the firer the initiative because troops soon learn whats going to come their way when contact is made.
    My guess ould be that its an effective strategy for Hezbollah to fire an RPG, wait for the Israelis to get up, then fire the second one, then run like hell and break contact, protected by the AK47 man.

  37. sonic says:

    I suppose the key is that if Iraq had a fully equiped army which way would it point it’s guns in a crisis?

  38. gene says:

    Col. Lang:
    The more fundamental question is how will the Iraq Army or its infrastructure be paid for? How can they possibly handle their country without revenue?

  39. KissMyChaddis says:

    1. About the war nerd: Yup, he’s a good read. Check out his older peices as well. Worth the time.
    2. About the decline in the importance of the rifle: A bit exaggerated maybe, but a valid point. The Chinese also have a force structure which emphasises the role of the RPG and if you look at the pictures coming out of the “Zarbat e Zolfigar” Mil Ex from Iran, you hardly see any assault rifles at all. Lots of MG, and RPG gunners on bikes though (used to devastating effect in the Iran-Iraq war BTW).

  40. jonst says:

    We owe it to our men and women in Iraq, and their families here, and for the rest of the nation to get them out now. For about a 100 reasons.
    But first, and foremost; because the civilian leadership, both in Congress and in White House, and, possibly, the military leadership as well, are, irredeemably, corrupt and incompetent. No tweaking of tactics, no strategic necessity, or overwhelming ‘national interest’ is going to change that fact. So I would argue.
    Therefore, it seems, to this observer, that the next step must be to change leadership here. I am under no illusions that there are great people just waiting in the wings to take over. Or even if there were, that it would be easy for them to do so. But nothing good, sound, or, practical, never mind noble, can come from this bunch in power. And if we don’t know that painful truth at this point, I’m not sure when we will.

  41. Alex says:

    I personally suspect the lack of logistic support for the Iraqis is chiefly down to the constant pressure to be seen to be putting Iraqi troops in the field. Since the autumn of 2003, if memory serves, this has been a dominating feature of the political discourse.
    Another factor is the warlord politics. If the force is seen as the private army of whichever commander or whichever institution sponsors it, what has value is force. If you have the central vehicle workshop, you’re not a warlord, you’re a target. So, the police, the Interior Ministry, the ICDC/ING/Whatever It’s Called Now, the Defence Ministry, the Border Patrol, the FPS – all of them accumulate as many gunmen as possible. There’s no incentive to provide logistics. As a warlord, it’s easier to get stuff from the Americans, and when the time comes, either from the world black market or by preying on the people.
    If I was an American advisor in Iraq, I should be very conscious indeed of where those 90 T-72s are and who’s got ’em. Especially if they are concentrated – there’s your coup d’etat right there.

  42. John Shreffler says:

    Many thanks for that. I’m honored that you shared that with me.

  43. Brian Hart says:

    The lack of Iraqi artillery, aircraft and tanks at least prevents rival militias and brigades from occupying areas where they do not have local support – at least without our help. The Sunnis, Kurds and Shia can’t crush each other. This means partition is most probable – or a military coupe with our blessing.

  44. Mo says:

    From an Arab pov, there is only one exit strategy viable for the US forces in Iraq and to be build up a credible Iraqi army and that is to allow the Arab league to take over security in the country, perhaps under a UN mandate.
    Its hard enough fighting one insurgency made up of the local populous but in Iraq there a 3 maybe 4 different type of insurgents each with its on groups. We’ve all seen the problems of defeating ideologies, so what country, even one with the resources of the US is going to defeat 3 or 4 ideologies?
    An Arab force would encounter far less hostility from the ex-military insurgency, be able to communicate with the local population and therefore garner much better intel on the Al-Qaida type terrorists and would not be seen as doing the US’s bidding, if it is made up of enough disparate states.
    Of course that would mean giving up the superbases, control of oil and control of the govt. so as long as someone is handing them out, I’d like a pony too.

  45. confusedponderer says:

    I think the lack of independence of the new Iraqi army was intended. IMO the idea behind the invasion was to (a) eliminate Iraq as a regional player, and (b) to create a justification for US presence (support of weak new Iraqi forces against Iran) and (c) to use Iraq as a launch pad for the rest of the regime-change tour. I well remember how US pundits praised Iraq as a better staging ground compared to Saudi Arabia … I remember Wolfowitz being quoted along the line: ‘… because Iraq has no holy sites …’ Almost, Sir, almost.
    There was a lot of naivete and wishful thinking involved on the US side, like the taking-for-granted of Turkish support for an invasion from the north, and the startled outrage when it was denied. Must have come as a shock to history’s actors.
    I think there was a genuine desire to create an all -new, better Iraq from a scratch. The imposed economic reforms (Grover Norquist led the project, a corporate wish-list) suggest nothing less. They wanted to build a nation. That the task was conducted so incompetently, ignoring or sidelining competent advice from even inside the US, only makes it all the more galling.
    duncan is quite right in pointing out that originally there was a lot of US talk about letting Europe do the ‘stabilising’. I vividly remember how angry I was about the attitude behind it: ‘So you’re against us attacking in the first place. So what? We *will* go there, beat the place up, and expect you come sweep up the crap. And pay the bill. Of yourse you’ll have no say. It is and will be our show. And don’t be a pussy, it’ll be a cakewalk.’
    That’s about why Old-European support remained so elusive. I guess that caught them as cold as the lack of Turkish enthusiasm for empowering the Kurds.

  46. Got A Watch says:

    There have been numerous stories, even the NYT and WaPo (!), focusing on the ethnic/religious/tribal loyalties of New Iraq Army commanders – or, more importantly for American readers, which way they might go in a general civil war situation.
    The most likely outcome would be they would vote where their loyalties already lie, not to a vison of a greater Iraqi nation. Pentagon planners have recognised this potential threat, so the Iraqi Army will simply not be allowed to develop effective military power while America occupies the country. This creates a dangerous power vacum regionally, where other local players are emboldened to project influence in adjacent areas of Iraq. The Iraqi government actually “controls” virtually nothing in Iraq, within or without the Green Zone. Another colossal blunder to add to the million point list of blunders.

  47. b says:

    What if the chaos (and the lack of support for the Iraqi army supports chaos) is by design?
    The “Pope” of the noeconservatives, Michael Ledeen, explicitly demanded chaos in the middle east.
    He and his followers are on the best way to achieve that.
    Mission accomplished!
    Ledeen profile:
    He is in the very middle of this.
    Ledeen quote (Aug 2002):
    However, nobody is perfect, and Scowcroft has managed to get one thing half right, even though he misdescribes it. He fears that if we attack Iraq “I think we could have an explosion in the Middle East. It could turn the whole region into a caldron and destroy the War on Terror.”
    One can only hope that we turn the region into a cauldron, and faster, please. If ever there were a region that richly deserved being cauldronized, it is the Middle East today. /unquote/

  48. Hal Carpenter says:

    Col. Lang;
    I agreee that there is no hope of the Iraqi Army succeeding without the basic infrastructure of support and supply (also, self-training and recruitment without huge American bonuses and salaries).
    But, I see no hope that any of these things can be done in the midst of their civil war. Won’t any faction see an attempt to build a support structure as a fat wallet to support their side? Are Shia supply officers capable of fully supplying Sunni units? How much money goes down the corruption hole that is the puppet government of Iraq?
    I’m sure you’re right that building this infrastructure must be done if the war in Iraq is to be any kind of success. I don’t think it can be done, and the war will be a failure for this and many other reasons. The War in Iraq…No Plans, No Understanding, No Goals, No Timeline, No Hope.
    Thanks for the great forum, Hal Carpenter

  49. Sgt.York says:

    RE: “the era of the automatic rifle as basic small arm may be ending”
    I’m suprised that there has not already been a wholesale switch to large-calibre personal arms to defeat Interceptor-type body armor.
    In Iraq, I’m suprised that there isn’t widespread bobby-trapping of houses to hinder the USA military from doing house-to-house search and arrest missions.
    I’m also suprised that RPG-27/29’s have not replaced the RPG-7’s used in Iraq.

  50. Patrick Henry says:

    As an interested observer who questions ALL motives by ALL Players involved in the Planning/Methods that went behind or into getting the United States Government and its Military.. Into a War with Iraq..
    And since we all know It was POOR Planning that defys all Logic ..Tactically..Militarily..and Politically.and.Strategically..
    My only conclusion is that It was Deliberately done this Way By The Bush Administration..Its Members and Asssociates as a Strategy to Ensure that there would be Long Term Chaos In Iraq..
    And thus INSURING A LONG TERM American Presence there (For Multiple political and Corporate Reasons) ..
    And also THUS~Assuring that the United States Military would Continue to be in the Region LONG TERM while other Regional Political and Military Objectives were carried out over a Period of Years
    that were Part of the Initial Neo-Con Plan that went beyond Iraq..and Was Broad in Scope..
    While other Middle East nations were confonted and dealt with using JOINT United States and Israeli Resources..and Strategy..
    I believe that PLAN is still OPERATIONAL..On-GOING..
    and Has Not Yet be Completed by the Neo`Cons..
    We Have Now had Major Events in Lebanon..
    But I believe the Real Targets are Syria and Iran..
    AND..The Israelis knew they could never do it ALONE..

  51. H.G. says:

    Two observations, starting with how the US can get out of Iraq. I doubt there is any way we can get out without serious loss due to the current administration’s arrogance and incompetence . The practical reason is our oft-mentioned looooong supply chain. Mo’s pan-arab/muslim nation handoff won’t work, due primarily to the very attributes Mo has often attributed to them: they are corrupt and don’t represent their peoples. They would be incredibly foolish to get involved in Iraq where any side they might have to take is bound to be a domestic loser. Maybe that’s why there isn’t any clamor from that quarter to bail the US out? Also never mind the fact that any new regional entity to insert itself would be seen by Iran as doing so at their expense. Is there a group of nations in the ME ready to take on Iran?
    My second point: structures of any kind are very difficult to create. Smart people try to take over structures and redirect/usurp them rather than destroying them to build new ones. (See above re: Bush=not smart). Disbanding the Iraqi army and it’s ability to potentially maintain/adapt/modify its sources of supply was stupid especially when we had them defeated and under our supervision. But replacing that Iraqi infrastructure with US war profiteers related to a sitting US vice president (Halliburtin and it’s subsidiaries KBR, etc.) is beyond stupid and into criminal and even treasonous.
    US soldiers are now horrifically exposed due to our handing off the Iraq military supply to Cheney cronies rather than empowering Iraqi entities. The point is not the source of the money. Sources of funds are easily exchanged: the problem is we haven’t trained/developed or apparently allowed them even an ORGANIZATIONAL infrastructure.
    So who’s fault is that?

  52. Marcello says:

    “I’m suprised that there has not already been a wholesale switch to large-calibre personal arms to defeat Interceptor-type body armor.”
    They would be poor suited
    for others uses.The russian AN-94 IIRC is precisely an attempt at producing an assault rifle with good anti body armor capabilities.Expensive, difficult to mantain and to train.
    “In Iraq, I’m suprised that there isn’t widespread bobby-trapping of houses to hinder the USA military from doing house-to-house search and arrest missions.”
    People are not going to booby trap their own home when they are living inside.This is not some depopulated chechen town.
    “I’m also suprised that RPG-27/29’s have not replaced the RPG-7’s used in Iraq.”
    Look to the price tag.

  53. Mo says:

    What you say is true regarding a Pan-Arab force. However, I think the likes of Syria have communication lines with the real Iraqi insurgency (ie those believing they are fighting occupation and targeting the military rather those using terrorism) and Iran has the links with the Shia. Therefore, any Pan Arab force would actually be able to come to agreements before it comes to town, with Irans blessing. I don’t actually believe this would be as difficult as it sounds, and would help the Arab leaders in their domestic position.
    Like you say, it wouldn’t be easy but as an alternative to the road Iraq is heading today, its the only possible alternative I can think of.

  54. BadTux says:

    Regarding an Arab League stabilization force in Iraq:
    Syria would not be acceptable to Israel, nor would Egypt. Those are the two biggest militaries in the Arab League right there.
    Saudi Arabia would not be acceptable to the Shia. Jordan would be acceptable to everybody, but Jordan’s military is relatively small and certainly not up to the task of policing all of Iraq, not to mention Jordan’s internal stability issues (Jordan’s significant Palestinian population continues to present rather interesting challenges to the Hashemite monarchy, and they certainly don’t want to give the Palestinians the idea that with so many Jordanian troops elsewhere it would be fun to rise up in rebellion again).
    In short, there’s too many political stumbling blocks to an Arab League stabilization force in Iraq, most of them having to do with the U.S. lockstep support of Israel and thus Israel’s ability to veto Egyptian and Syrian participation in such a force.
    Looking around the area, both Turkey and Iran have large militaries that, on the surface, would have the capability to stabilize Iraq. However, Turkey would not be acceptable to the Kurds. Iran would not be acceptable to the vast majority of Iraqis, even the Shia — when Saddam invaded Iran, the Shia of Iraq were every bit as patriotically anti-Iran as everybody else in Iraq. Their religion may be Shia Islam, but their ethnicity is still Arab, and that counts for something vs. the Farsi-speaking Persian Iranians (who are not ethnically Arab, for the igorant rednecks out there who apparently think anybody brown who has oil in their country is an Arab).
    In short, as George H.W. Bush noted back in his book in ’95, toppling Saddam opened a Pandora’s box from which extricating U.S. troops without permanant damage to U.S. interests is pretty much impossible. But Sonny Boy gave the middle finger to Poppy and did it anyhow…

  55. Mo says:

    Your points are very pertinent but if it got so bad that the US really needed to get out would Israels demands really be accepted in the US? Would the White House and/or Congress really put Israels needs above the lives of US service personnel?
    If the answer is yes, someone had better take back control of the US because if that were true, the US has been invaded in all but name.

  56. “Since the mid-1980s it is estimated that over a million Russians have immigrated to Israel. With a population of just over 6 million, this makes the Russian immigrant community a strong voting block in the Jewish state. Politically, they are considered a staple of the Israeli right wing.
    But as Lily Galili reports in Haaretz, war can produce combinations that on the surface of Israeli politics seem unimaginable. At the head of Israel’s antiwar movement against the invasion of Lebanon stands Jana Kanapova and Khulud Badawi. Kanapova immigrated to Israel from the Ukraine as a young Zionist 11 years ago. Badawi is an Arab-Israeli resident of Haifa, which for the last month has been the target of Hezbollah’s Katyusha rockets (which were ironically made in Russia). Together they have been the leaders of the peace movement on behalf of the Women’s Peace Coalition and the Ta’ayush organization. An Arab and a Russian. The combination defies most assumptions about the politics of ethnicity and the ethnicity of politics in Israel.”

  57. H.G. says:

    Forget about what Israel would veto: no ME country is going to bail us out of Iraq, period, end, no matter what Cheney or anyone else may offer them.

  58. Mo says:

    No ME country may want to bail the US out of Iraq but there is, understandably, a certain deal of sympathy for the suffering of the Iraqis. Therefore it would be more of a case of bailing the Iraqis out. The actual sticking point is that the US would have to give up all claims and control and we know that wouldn’t happen.

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