Confusion at the highest levels over Iraq strategy
Australia’s most senior military advisers are at odds over the best strategy for Iraq.
Two days ago, the former Chief of Army, Peter Leahy, warned in the Australian against mission creep and any combat role for Australian Diggers:
“Now head of strategic studies at the University of Canberra, Professor Leahy said he was not convinced that accompanying Iraqi troops into battle was the solution to the problem. “I want to see a much bigger effort from Iraqis and their regional allies,” he said.
“Too much is being asked of the coalition and committing Australian troops to close combat is going too far. We have to see Iraqis involved in combat and fighting for their own country rather than relying on us. We can support them with non-combat elements such as logistics training and equipment.”
Meanwhile, another former general, Jim Molan, has called for Australian soldiers to deploy with Iraqi forces, as reported online in the Sydney Morning Herald:
Retired army general Jim Molan, who has significant sway within the Abbott government, has called for Australian and allied troops to deepen their involvement in Iraq by entering the battlefield to prop up shaky local forces.
Mr Molan, a retired major-general who oversaw coalition operations in Iraq in 2004 and 2005, said the current training approach was not enough, as the recent rout of Iraqi forces in the key city of Ramadi showed.
Instead, he has made a dramatic call for Australia, US and other allied troops to start going “beyond the wire” of training camps and accompanying local forces on the battlefield to boost their confidence.
Training them under the current plan was “going to take 100 years” to get them up to scratch, he said.
The fact that these two senior and experienced former Army officers are at odds over Australia’s direction in Iraq is not necessarily a bad thing. More than anything, we need to know what the goal is and a public debate will hopefully force the government to clarify that.
I’m more concerned that no senior political or military figure has been able to articulate if there is a strategy at all.