“This is not about ISIS strength, but the Iraqi security forces’ weakness,” said a former senior American officer who served in Iraq. “Since the U.S. left in 2011, the training and readiness of the Iraqi security forces has plummeted precipitously.”
The retired officer said that the militants’ fast-moving advance south was more a reflection of the lack of resistance by Iraqi forces than the effectiveness of ISIS and its confederates.
“If the cops abandon a city, the criminals are going to run rampant,” the officer said.
The end of the American military presence has also diminished the Iraqi Army’s readiness. The United States has a small office of security cooperation at the American embassy that focuses on facilitating arms sales but also carries out some limited mentoring of Iraqi forces.
But with the withdrawal of American forces in December 2011, American advisers are no longer in the field with Iraqi units and the United States is no longer in a position to influence Mr. Maliki’s choice of commanders.
The way the office of security cooperation is structured and staffed, it “is not capable of doing what’s needed,” General Dubik said.
“If the Iraqis could solve their problems by themselves, they wouldn’t be in the situation they’re in,” he said. “They need sustained help in both the security and policy areas. This means a concerted diplomatic and security advisory mission.”
Senators emerging from the two-hour closed briefing with Pentagon officials and intelligence analysts expressed grave doubts that Mr. Maliki and Iraqi commanders could quickly reverse the lightning gains across the north and west that ISIS and its Islamist allies had achieved in the past few days.
Senator Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican, singled out the reports of soldiers’ wearing civilian clothes under their uniforms as a particularly foreboding development. “That’s a bad sign,” he said. (NYTimes)