30 Mar. 2008

Send In The Koalas!

So Aussie "combat forces" are on the way out, and our remaining troops are just training Iraqis to take over security, right? So how's that looking? Here's a Progress Report from AFP (via Atrios):
Nationwide security: In the latest shift, the Pentagon's new quarterly status report quietly drops any prediction of when local units will take over security responsibility for Iraq. Last year's reports had forecast a transition in 2008.

Bush's prediction: In January 2007, President Bush said Iraqi forces would take charge in all 18 Iraqi provinces by November. Four months past that deadline, they control nine provinces and none of the most volatile ones.

Cost: At least $22 billion has been spent to train an Iraqi military with narrow capabilities, critics and outside experts say.

Pentagon's view: Lt. Gen. James Dubik, the current trainer, said his team has made "huge progress in many areas, quality and quantity." Still, "we're not free of difficulties," he said, citing as an example a critical shortage of midlevel Iraqi officers that will take years to close.

Iraqi view: Dubik says Iraqi defense officials don't expect to take over internal security until as late as 2012 and won't be able to defend Iraq's borders until 2018.

Outside experts: They say the Iraqi military's list of unmet needs remains long: artillery and modern armor; advanced communications and intelligence systems; a logistics network able to supply everything from food and fuel to transport and ammunition; combat hospitals; and air power.
A lot more "discouraging" info at the link.

Now remember, this is your taxes and mine at work here folks. What's effectively happening is that unemployed Iraqis are signing up for a paycheck, a gun, and some free military training. When push comes to shove, they just swap sides without hesitation (it's an Arab cultural thing, or so I have heard: what might seems shameful treason in the Western military tradition is considered eminent common sense across the Middle East).

Is this money being well spent? It seems the real purpose is not to train Iraqis at all, but to maintain good relations with Washtington. Couldn't we just send them some koalas or something?