Training the Enemy

Iraqi20soldiers20and20our20guys "Their televised graduation was supposed to be a moment of national celebration: A class of 1,000 Sunni Arab soldiers emerging from basic training would show Iraqis that the country’s worsening religious divide was not afflicting the national army.

Two months later, only about 300 of them have reported for duty, U.S. officials say.

The evaporation of the class underscores the struggling U.S. and Iraqi effort to increase recruitment from the disgruntled Sunni Arab minority, which forms the backbone of the insurgency.

The success or failure of the effort holds broad ramifications, especially as U.S. forces begin to hand control of troublesome Sunni cities and neighborhoods to Iraqi soldiers, most of whom are now Shiites and Kurds." Castaneda


I have tried repeatedly to get  a straight answer from various authorities as to the representation of the various communities in units of the Iraqi Army.  So far, I have not been successful with obtaining the over all numbers for the army as a whole or for particular units.

In my experience it is difficult but not impossible to get soldiers to serve effectively in units of a mixed ethno-religious nature.  The smaller the units, the less it is possible to do so.  The soldiers want to live and serve with their own people and ancestral enemies are generally not thought of as their own.  In other words a brigade (3,000 men) might be "mixed" but a battalion (600 men) or a company (150 men) might be an impossibility.

Where did the "missing" 700 new Sunni soldiers disappear to?  Where do you think?

Pat Lang

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4 Responses to Training the Enemy

  1. zanzibar says:

    It seems our tax dollars are training insurgents who then attack our troops. This just epitomizes how messed up the situation in Iraq is. Even with the new Maliki government the violence escalates. And now with the Israel vs Hamas and Hizballah reprisals the destabilization is growing. Sadr was quoted as saying Iraqi Shia’s need to raise money and provide material support to Hizballah. How long before it spreads to engulf other countries in the region?

  2. ikonoklast says:

    From The Boston Globe – April 2006:
    “… most units lack a mix of Sunnis, Shi’ite Muslims, and Kurds, according to Bush administration officials who cited recent statistics.
    As a result, US and NATO trainers frequently are drilling units made up almost exclusively of Shi’ites or Kurds, raising fears that those units could one day turn on the Sunnis or each other in a civil war …
    ”Enlisted Sunnis are slightly less than 10 percent” of total security forces, said a State Department official who was granted anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the information. ”They should be around 20 percent.” …
    One of the authors of the analysis, Jeremy M. Sharp, a Middle East specialist with the Congressional Research Service, said in an interview that he believes that only large, headquarters-sized units have Shi’ites, Sunnis, and Kurds in the ranks. The smaller operating units that conduct missions — and are blamed for some of the sectarian violence — are broken down largely along ethnic lines, he said.
    ”They might be ethnically mixed at the division level,” he said, ”but are they mixed at the company level? They keep that very quiet.”

  3. Adnan R. Khan says:

    I agree whole-heartedly. The fissures in the Iraqi army are grossly under-reported. In October 2004, I covered the issue in the north, around Mosul, where the Kurds dominate the Iraqi army (you can read the full story at
    I embedded with the Iraqi army in Tal Afar, which basically means I showed up unannounced at one of their forward operating bases and asked if I could hang around for a while. What I found in my 2 weeks there was an army deeply divided along ethnic lines. The Kurds dominate the senior ranks of the Iraqi army deployed in Northern Iraq. The Arabs are pissed because they are passed over for promotions and feel they are being punished for their ethnicity. Many have deserted. I witnessed a near mini-civil war on one Iraqi fob that was narrowly avoided by the intervention of U.S. personnel. It’s a frightening situation and I think it will only get worse.

  4. Adnan R. Khan says:

    Sorry, I meant October 2005.

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