The Iraqi military is facing “psychological collapse” amid desertions and a lack of equipment as the militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) continue to capture more territory in Iraq and overwhelm the regular army's defenses. As The Washington Post’s Loveday Morris and Karen DeYoung report, ISIS have taken “significant chunks” of territory that the Iraqi army may not be strong enough to win back now. Desertion is high, morale is non-existent, and the level of desperation and need for regular people to fight back against ISIS means that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is relying on tens of thousands of volunteers to fight.
Analysts say that the Iraqi army has, over time, lost the ability (or never had the opportunity) to defend itself. ISIS fighters, “hardened” by years fighting in Syria, seized weapons from the Iraqi army that first came from the United States and are reportedly worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Yesterday, ISIS captured their fourth town in two days, have taken control of most of Iraq's border with Syria, and their expansion in Iraq showing no sign of slowing down.
As the Post reports:
The government’s dire situation was evident Sunday at the Baghdad Operations Command, the nerve center of the capital’s security operations, run jointly by the Interior and Defense ministries. Standing in front of an illuminated map, spokesman Brig. Gen. Saad Maan gestured toward the broad swaths of land outside the city’s boundaries that are now considered hostile territory.”
The New York Times’ Alissa J. Rubin and Michael R. Gordon report that around a quarter of Iraq’s forces are “combat ineffective,” and Iraqi officials say that U.S. airstrikes are the first of their many needs. Those who are signing up to volunteer receive a paltry “week or less” of training, and when combined with “sycophantic generals” and a low morale, the Iraqi army cannot stand up to the more experienced and more brutal ISIS insurgents. Despite efforts to encourage al-Maliki’s government to be more inclusive of the country’s Sunni population, there hasn’t been a meaningful outreach by the government, and Shiite volunteers still see them as a threat.
On the Iraqi army’s ISIS enemy, who they say they were not trained to fight, Rubin and Gordon write:
With an estimated 10,000 fighters, about 5,000-6,000 of them ISIS and about 4,000 allied Iraqi Sunni groups, ISIS has been able to seize stores of military equipment and plan small offensive missions that, when coupled with a propaganda campaign, have proved highly effective. When the militants overran Mosul they captured the second-largest ammunition storage site in Iraq, which one expert described as a 'Walmart of ammunition'.”
Wary of dragging the U.S. into another war, especially one in Iraq, and with a presidential election still two years away, President Barack Obama has found unlikely allies in the Republican Party. Speaking on Meet The Press on Sunday, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul sparred with former Vice President Dick Cheney over his criticism of President Obama's stance on the crisis, and blamed the current violence in Iraq on the decisions of the Bush administration.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.