Firing Iraqi Generals For Being Successful?

This story is more than a little disturbing…

A department of the Iraqi prime minister’s office is playing a leading role in the arrest and removal of senior Iraqi army and national police officers, some of whom had apparently worked too aggressively to combat violent Shiite militias, according to U.S. military officials in Baghdad.

Since March 1, at least 16 army and national police commanders have been fired, detained or pressured to resign; at least nine of them are Sunnis, according to U.S. military documents shown to The Washington Post.

Although some of the officers appear to have been fired for legitimate reasons, such as poor performance or corruption, several were considered to be among the better Iraqi officers in the field. The dismissals have angered U.S. and Iraqi leaders who say the Shiite-led government is sabotaging the military to achieve sectarian goals.

“Their only crimes or offenses were they were successful” against the Mahdi Army, a powerful Shiite militia, said Brig. Gen. Dana J.H. Pittard, commanding general of the Iraq Assistance Group, which works with Iraqi security forces. “I’m tired of seeing good Iraqi officers having to look over their shoulders when they’re trying to do the right thing.”

…But some U.S. military officials say politics remains among the greatest hindrances to the development of the Iraqi security forces — a top priority for Americans in Iraq. Col. Ehrich Rose, chief of the Military Transition Team with the 4th Iraqi Army Division, who has spent several years working with foreign armies, said the Iraqi officer corps is riddled with divergent loyalties to different sects, tribes and political groups.

“The Iraqi army, as far as capability goes, I’d stack them up against just about any Latin American army I’ve dealt with,” he said. “However, the politicization of their officer corps is the worst I’ve ever seen.”

…One adviser in the office, Bassima Luay Hasun al-Jaidri, has enough influence to remove and intimidate senior commanders, and her work has “stifled” many officers who are afraid of angering her, a senior U.S. military official said. U.S. commanders are considering installing a U.S. liaison officer in the department to better understand its influence.

…”Her office harasses [Iraqi commanders] if they are nationalistic and fair,” said the U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity out of concern over publicly criticizing the Iraqi government. “They need to get rid of her and her little group.”

A senior Iraqi army official said he plans to seek assistance from Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, in limiting the office’s interference in the daily duties of the military. “We need his help to stop these noises,” the official said on condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity.

The goal of the US military is not to stop all the terrorism and violence in Iraq. It’s to weaken the bad guys, clear them out of key areas, and give the Iraqi forces time to build up, move into those areas, and defend themselves without needing US forces on the streets.

Now, if that’s going to work, you need a government that’s capable AND WILLING to protect its citizens. If the attitude of the Shias in Iraq is, “We want to let the Shia militias run wild and kill the Sunnis because we hate them,” and the government is a part of that, it’s going to fall apart when we leave, no matter what we do.

That’s why I find comments like this one, from an American general who was willing to go on record, to be very worrisome,

“Their only crimes or offenses were they were successful” against the Mahdi Army, a powerful Shiite militia, said Brig. Gen. Dana J.H. Pittard, commanding general of the Iraq Assistance Group, which works with Iraqi security forces. “I’m tired of seeing good Iraqi officers having to look over their shoulders when they’re trying to do the right thing.”

What we’re doing in Iraq right now is an honorable and decent thing. We’re spending our blood and treasure to help the Iraqi people build a military capable of protecting their democratic government after we’re gone. But ultimately, even after we’ve done our part and helped the Iraqis build a military that can defend their country from the insurgents, terrorists, and thugs causing havoc, they’ve got be willing to do their part. If we ever come to the conclusion that they’re not willing to hold up their part of the bargain, then the war really will be “lost,” and we might as well bring our troops home.

That’s why we shouldn’t tolerate this sort of behavior from the Iraqi government. If we think they’re going after soldiers not because they’re corrupt or have divided loyalties, but because they are, “trying to do the right thing,” then we should put our foot down and demand a change because the ultimate success of our mission in Iraq depends on it.

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