Iraq's new army is "developing steadily," with "strong Iraqi leaders out front," the chief U.S. trainer assured the American people. That was three-plus years ago, the U.S. Army general was David H. Petraeus, and some of those Iraqi officials at the time were busy embezzling more than $1 billion allotted for the new army's weapons, according to investigators.That failure is partly incompetence, part deliberate failure to provide Iraqi forces with the equipment they need to act independently of an American logistic and heavy firepower tail. Thus, in all major operations, the tail has been able to wag the dog.
Iraq has been thus rendered unsovereign, a mere Satrapy, unable to conduct its own defense against other nations. Now, we're seeing that it's unable to conduct it's own internal security - still - as well.
The 14th Division, the main formation in Maliki's attack on the Sadrists of Basra, was recruited from the Basra area itself and is mainly composed of Badr Brigade militia inducted wholesale into the Army. It has been preening itself in Diwaniyah, Kerbala and Najaf ever since, given the prestigious but job of guarding the main Basra-Baghdad rail corridor and the Holy Cities. It's being commanded by Maliki's own brother-in-law. But this Praetorian Guard has only the very lightest of Eastern European armored trucks as it's main personnel carriers, few tanks, and no heavy artillery.
This comparatively crack division, probably the only one Maliki could be so sure of mainly staying loyal, has proven utterly inadequate to the task given it. That's partly a problem of "balance of forces", as Fester so ably pointed out the other day, but it is also a legacy of American failures and deliberate policies which have left the Iraqi Army emasculated and little more than a well-equipped militia itself.
Unless the Bush administration and the Maliki government were deep in denial, believing their own PR on how wonderful the Iraqi Army now was, then they had to be at least somewhat aware of all this. So they must have known from the very first that Maliki's offensive would need American rescuing. That means, since it went ahead anyway, that they considered that rescuing a feature, not a bug.