More reason to think carefully about Iraq

The Iraqi Prime Minister has confirmed that the Islamic State hit the jackpot when it captured Mosul in mid-2014.

Baghdad: The scale of Iraqi losses to Islamic State is starting to emerge with country’s prime minister telling reporters that his security forces lost thousands of Humvee armoured vehicles when the jihadist group overran the northern city of Mosul.

“In the collapse of Mosul, we lost a lot of weapons,” Mr Abadi said in an interview with Iraqiya state TV on Sunday. “We lost 2300 Humvees in Mosul alone.”

It’s not bad news for everyone though. The United States signed a contract to sell new Humvees to the Iraqis last year. The price for 1,000 was set at $757 million.

That means the Islamic State has seized more than $1.5 billion worth of Humvees in Mosul alone.

The complete inability of the Iraqi Army to stand and fight – after years of Coalition and training and huge stockpiles of weapons – should give more reason to carefully consider whether Australia should take part in a new military mission in Iraq that looks just like the last. As I have written, it is increasingly apparent that the lessons of the last decade have not been learned. If we do go in, it should be done properly and as part of a long-term strategy to de-Islamise the region.

The news about the Iraqi Security Force does not get any better from veteran journalists of the Iraq war. This is what Michell Prothero, who has covered Iraq since 2003, has written for Politico Magazine:

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter infuriated his Iraqi allies last Sunday when he blamed the loss of Ramadi on the Iraqi Army’s unwillingness to fight, a bold and accurate statement by a U.S. official, perhaps the most candid and realistic I’ve heard from a U.S. official in the 12 years I’ve been covering Iraq. As harsh an assessment as that might have been, it still doesn’t come close to recognizing the myriad of problems that any coalition hoping to free much of Iraq and Syria—where the Islamic State now controls three provincial capitals spanning two countries—must address.

About a month before Ramadi fell, in an effort to bring a realistic tenor to the debate about when an operation to liberate Mosul might begin, I pointed out that Iraq had perhaps 10,000 combat effective troops spread among three special forces units and that beyond that, the Iraqi security forces lacked training, equipment, leadership or even the basic logistical competence to put men into combat and supply them with ammo, food and water, let alone coordinate operations in a coherent manner. Worse yet, I wrote that these effective units were exhausted after a year of being plugged into every military need that arose around the country. In the wake of Ramadi, I realized that I’d grossly underestimated their fatigue and flagging morale, as evidenced by their flight from Ramadi at the height of a battle. Today, the Iraqi government would be lucky if 5,000 of its effective troops are still in fighting shape.

IS humvees

The Islamic State has captured thousands of military vehicles from the Iraqi Army.

Author: Bernard Gaynor

Bernard Gaynor is a married father of seven children. He has a background in military intelligence, Arabic language and culture and is an outspoken advocate of conservative and family values.

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