US exit strategy from Iraq is purportedly tied to the development of
the Iraqi uniformed military. James Fallows, writing for the Atlantic
magazine (subscription), has thoroughly assessed the current status of
the effort and its implications for continued US involvement in the
war. How long will it take? Here are the factors that will dictate the
- Language training and priority. Effective training programs,
despite progress, are still not a top priority for the US military.
Organizational factors dictate that military professionals that spend
time in the training role will suffer career difficulties.
Additionally, the US military has not developed language training
programs to improve training effectiveness. Fixing this requires a long
- Equipment for survivability. The Iraqi military still lacks
most of the equipment they need to protect themselves. There is a
pervasive fear within the US military that any military equipment
provided the Iraqi military may be used against the US in the future
(either via the guerrillas or through employment by a rogue Iraqi
government). The result is that the Iraqi military is armed in a
similar fashion to a rag-tag militia. In engagements with guerrillas,
their casualty rates are many times higher than those of the US.
- Skills for independent action. The US has only trained the
Iraqi military for basic soldiering (and that with only mixed levels of
effectiveness). None of the specialized skills have been taught. This
means that the Iraqi military cannot support itself in the field. From
basic logistics to medical support to air power, the Iraqi military is
entirely dependent on the US for support. This is partly by design to
prevent Iraq from becoming a regional threat again.
The upshot is that Iraq's forces will be entirely dependent on US
support for at least the rest of the decade. In essence, there isn't an
exit strategy based on this requirement in any time period that is
reasonable. [John Robb's Weblog]