Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Iraq needs reformed military to stablize

Mohammed Alomari

A lmost every day we hear about how Iraq is spiraling quickly into the abyss of a bloody civil war and possible partition. Everyday hundreds of people are killed. How did this country get transformed into this ugly nightmare?

To truly appreciate what has happened in Iraq, consider this scenario:
Imagine one day waking up and finding out that our nation's leaders have dismantled all the police and military. As a result, there is not one policeman, or state or federal law enforcement agent, or even one National Guard or Army soldier to protect you from the criminal elements and terrorists. It would be total chaos.

That is what happened in Iraq in 2003. All military and security forces were abolished.
Imagine that instead of recalling the Army and security forces, the authorities decided to form a new army and police from members of the KKK, some racist supremacist militias, some mercenaries and organized criminal gangs.

Then with government-issued badges and vehicles, these armed groups begin arresting, torturing and murdering innocent people either because of their faith, creed or purely for profit.

How nightmare started

This is exactly what happened in Iraq. In 2003, a new Iraqi Army and security forces were formed, primarily by enlisting members of sectarian supremacist militias and foreign mercenaries who had a hateful agenda against members of other faiths.

For the last three years, these sectarian supremacist militias who cause most of the bloodshed in Iraq, according to U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad and some U.S. military commanders on the ground, have successfully infiltrated the Iraqi military and security forces and carried out their crimes.

Add all that to the foreign fighters, terrorists and foreign intelligence operatives who have exploited the security vacuum and want Iraq to remain unstable. It was these grave mistakes early on that have now mushroomed into what is now near civil war proportions.

Study group avoids source of trouble

As the situation worsens, many are debating the withdrawal of U.S. forces, especially after the release of the Iraq Study Group report. The report urges a withdrawal of combat troops by early 2008. Whatever timetable is put forward, the United States has to use the time it still has in Iraq effectively and wisely.

Although the report offers some good practical suggestions to solve the complex problems, it does not offer serious solutions for one major source of trouble: the corrupt and militia-infiltrated sectarian Iraqi security and military forces.

More training and reconciliation is simply not enough. The Bush administration must use military power to disband the militias and then reform the sectarian Iraqi military and security forces and cleanse them of militia infiltration.

Cleanse military

Real solutions include bringing back the low-level officers and soldiers of the former Army, and/or implementing a short-term military conscription, which will guarantee that all faiths and communities are accurately represented in the forces. This would help create an all-professional service and strengthen the bonds of unity. Then and only then will there be an Iraqi force effective enough to secure the country so the United States can leave.

Ignoring these problems will only ensure that the violence will worsen and eventually evolve into a civil war leading to the breakup of the country into mini-states, like Somalia today. The likely result would be at least two extremist anti-American mini-states in Iraq: one aligned with Iran in the south and another with the Taliban in the center. This would cause chaos and upheaval in neighboring states.

Without real reforms, the experiment in Iraq may well spread violent extremism throughout the Middle East instead of democracy.

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