Foreign Policy / Politics

Military Assessment of Iraqi Security Forces

On June 24, the United States Army sent 90 special intelligence troops to Iraq in order to assess the militia of Iraq and to offer advice on how to efficiently rebuff the advances of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

ISIS is an extremist, jihadist, terrorist group that, similar to Al-Qaeda, is a spin-off from the Muslim Brotherhood that operates in Iraq and Syria.  ISIS believes in an anti-USA and anti-Western interpretation of the Quran, along with endorsing violence against those who oppose their beliefs.  ISIS’s current aim is to establish a Sunni Muslim state that spans both Syria and Iraq.  As of June 9th of this year, ISIS had gained control of parts of eastern Syria and northwestern Iraq, even controlling the Iraqi city of Mosul, after the Iraqi army either surrendered the city or simply fled instead of fighting ISIS jihadists.  In the invasion of Iraq, the northeastern part of Iraq, which has a high population of Kurds, has moved to fortify their border with both ISIS-controlled Iraq and government-controlled jurisdiction.  After taking control of these areas, ISIS officially changed their name to the Islamic State (IS) and established a caliphate, a new state, under their leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.

This incursion has left the United States in a perilous position.  Although the U.S. Army has not been involved in Iraq since December of 2011, U.S. military contractors have remained in Iraq to help train and instruct the newly formed Iraqi army in how to defend their country from outside threats, such as ISIS.  Throughout the invasion of ISIS, the Iraqi military fled instead defending their country against the insurgents.  The United States briefly considered sending combat troops if the situation was to escalate, but President Obama ruled out deploying combat troops.  President Obama has not ruled out possible air strikes in the future, such as unmanned drones.

The purpose of the intelligence troops is to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the Iraqi military and to advise US Army generals whether or not to send more advisory teams to train the army again.  In a classified military report, published earlier this week, the assessment teams established that only approximately half of the army would be capable to be trained and commanded by American officers if the US did decide to send another training and advisory team.  The report also mentioned that many of the army units have large amounts of “either Sunni extremist informants or Shiite personnel backed by Iran,” which fought against American troops in the Iraq War.  The report concluded that due to this makeup of troops, any American advisors could be at risk if the USA did decide to send advisory troops.  In light of this recent news, America is put into a more hazardous position.  If the United States does not help Iraq, it risks looking as if it abandoned Iraq after invading the country.  However, if the United States does send advisory troops, it risks embroiling itself in another long and dragged out war in the Middle East at a time when many Americans are firmly against more wars.