How much longer will Washington allow itself to be strung along, and, by not confronting these issues, enable so many groups within the Iraqi armed forces to exist as parasitic organisms exploiting U.S. forces and money? “US faced with Iraqi Army turncoats,” by Sam Dagher for the Christian Science Monitor:
Khalis, Iraq – As the US military continues to move through Diyala Province to
uproot Al Qaeda fighters hidden amid its villages, an emerging foe may be helping to erode many of the successes the Americans are having in the three-week-old operation “Arrowhead
According to Iraqi soldiers and US officers, militants linked to Al Qaeda
are using tribal and family connections and, in some cases, also providing financial incentives to members of the Iraqi Army to help them remain strong and evade capture.
Al Qaeda’s position is also bolstered by a broader internecine sectarian struggle for survival, power, and resources between Sunnis and Shiites that has spilled into the Army itself. This fight within Iraqi security services often pits elements of the Army against the Shiite-dominated police force.
A US Army officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the
sensitivity of the matter, goes even further.
“There have been reports of Iraqi Army units transporting weapons for militias and insurgents in military vehicles,” he says, adding that some officers even receive money from truckers in return for assurances that the roads on which their convoys travel will be protected.
“Yes, some Sunnis in our battalion are sympathetic to these elements because
they still cannot accept an Iraq where Shiites have power,” says Maj. Hussein Kadhim.
There are also likely more than a few unsubstantiated claims motivated by political agendas, which only further saps resources and splinters the army.
In an interview, three of the Sunni officers deny the charges and accuse some
of their Shiite comrades of running death squads and manning illegal checkpoints in cooperation with the recently formed Khalis Emergency Response Force (ERF), a mostly Shiite paramilitary group, and the Khalis Shiite mayor, Uday Adnan, to cleanse the whole area of Sunnis.
Maj. Wissam Hamid admits, though, that some Sunni villages in Diyala have
sought the protection of Al Qaeda operatives against Shiite militias and warns that more will do the same if the militias are not reined in.
These competing interests and allegiances — that often get in the way of the
American mission in Diyala to defeat Al Qaeda forces — were on full display here last Thursday.
While Iraqi officers were having lunch, Maj. Faisal Majid, a Sunni, received a call on his cellphone. The person on the other end told him that a mob, backed by a local paramilitary group, had descended on the homes of the Albu-Abali Sunni family. The group
was about to loot and set the properties on fire, the caller said.
US Army Maj. Dom Dionne, who is part of the team working with the Iraqi battalion in Khalis, rushed to the scene. When he arrived with his men, not a single shop in the area was open. A police pickup truck blocked a side street where the Albu-Abali homes are located. Members of the ERF, a Shiite paramilitary group dressed in green camouflage and red berets, stood on street corners.
“The military goes through a vetting process to ensure that the soldiers are not known criminals or insurgents, but there is no process after that to screen them periodically to make sure they have not turned or started supporting criminals and terrorists,” says Dionne. He says that is the responsibility of the sovereign Iraqi government and not the US Army. “With our current manning, it’s not feasible,” he adds.
Furthermore, the US military cannot put too much pressure on Sunni tribes in
Diyala because, according to the Arrowhead Ripper commander, Gen. Mick Bednarek, it needs
them to renounce Al Qaeda, provide intelligence, and encourage their sons to join the police and Army.