On August 31, 2010, the United States began a new phase in the Iraq War, Operation New Dawn. The mission is to “advise, train, assist, and equip the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF)” (Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, 65). Currently, 50,000 US troops remain in Iraq with all scheduled for withdrawal by December 31, 2011. Significant security challenges remain. Yet, according to the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki remains steadfast in his opposition to extending the Iraqi Security Agreement (SIGIR, 2011).
However, on April 7, 2011, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates asserted that “we are willing to have a presence beyond” the end of the year (Esptein). This suggestion was calculated, and aimed at putting pressure on the Iraqis to extend the presence of some US troops in the region.
The growing concern of handing over complete control to Iraqi forces stems from their poor track record: an inability to protect the nation from insurgents and terrorists, along with a lack of command, experience, and financial resources.
From a statistical standpoint positive development has occurred. Overall violence has seen a dramatic drop since its height four years ago. “As of December 31, 2010, the overall level of violence in Iraq was about 90% lower than the peak seen in 2007. Last year, the average number of daily security incidents nationwide was less than 25—making 2010 the least violent year since U.S. operations began in2003” (SIGIR, 2011).
According to the same report though, “Iraq remains the scene of indiscriminate mass-casualty attacks and frequent targeted attacks on government officials, security personnel, and religious minorities” (SIGIR, 2011).
The Iraqi Security Forces fall under two departments: the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of the Interior. The Ministry of Defense Forces includes the Iraqi Army, Training and Support, Air Force, and Navy. Together these defense forces consist of 261,500 personnel. The Ministry of Interior is made up of the Iraqi Police, Iraqi Federal Police, Border Enforcement, Oil Police, and Facilities Protection Services, totaling 534,000 personnel (SIGIR, 2011).
Neither department has been deemed ready to handle the sole reigns of Iraq’s security. According to the Department of Defense’s Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq, as quoted in the SIGIR, “both MOI and MOD security forces are behind in the attainment Of Minimum Essential Capability (MEC)”—the standard that indicates “Iraqi security ministries, institutions, and forces can provide internal security and possess foundational capabilities to defend against external threats” (SIGIR, 2011).
In addition, “All MOI security forces, however, are expected to have gaps in funding, command and control, and logistical infrastructure” when US troops withdraw at the end of 2011 (SIGIR,2011). This report contrasts with recent comments by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki after an April 16, 2011 meeting with US Speaker of the House John Boehner. As quoted by AFP, Maliki asserted, “The Iraqi security forces and the armed forces have become able to take responsibility, to maintain security and to work efficiently” (Rao). Yet, all signs point to just the opposite. Besides the inability of Iraqi forces to protect the nation from insurgents, corruption continues to be an issue. Corruption “has hindered development and led to the inefficient allocation of human and fiscal resources, as well as the absence of a requirements-driven planning process for the maintenance of security infrastructure and equipment” (SIGIR, 2011).
Certainly, Iraq has made much progress over the past four years. Nevertheless, attacks against political leaders and religious minorities, along with religious and tribal conflicts, are not capable of being averted by the current Iraqi Security Forces.
With the instability of many governments in the Middle East, the United States has an enormous stake in the outcome of the Iraqi democratic experiment. After such an enormous monetary investment and the enduring sacrifice of thousands, the US cannot leave Iraqi security in the hands of ill-prepared Iraqi Security Forces.
Human rights and religious freedom must be addressed by the Iraqi government. Only then can Iraq fulfill its potential as an exemplary, stable, democratic nation in the region. Security for its populace must be one of the government’s top priorities. Without a strong military and police force, and by allowing the Iraqi forces to take complete control too early, Iraq’s fledging democracy faces numerous dangers from not just Iran and insurgents, but also from corruption within.
Epstein, Jennifer. Robert Gates: U.S. Troops could stay in Iraq past end date. (2011, April 7). Politico. Retrieved April 17, 2011 from, http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0411/52719.html
Rao, Prashant. Maliki tells US’s Boehner Iraqi troops are ready. 16 April 2011. AFP. Retrieved April 18, 2011, from http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20110416/pl_afp/iraquspoliticsdiplomacy
Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction: Quarterly Report and Semiannual Report to the United States Congress, 65-69. (2011, January 30). Retrieved April 17, 2011, from http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/6E513B08495C919C8525782A006191AC-Full_Report.pdf