As ISIL fighters continue to gain ground in Iraq, expanding the borders of their self-proclaimed caliphate, even with the US-led coalition’s aerial bombardment underway, the question pundits ought to be asking is what the Pentagon has to show for the vast amounts of money it has spent towards “training” foreign troops.
Let’s face it: for an army that has received at least $26 billion – or up to $40 billion if Russian estimates are to be believed – worth of training by the US, the Iraqi army turned out to be totally unprepared when confronted with the ISIL onslaught.
In June, around 800 to 1,000 ISIL fighters entered Iraq from Syria, sending tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers running for their lives in the west of the country, leaving their hardware and even small arms behind. That’s a pretty damning image of an army that had been trained by the best of the best – the mighty US armed forces – at considerable cost to US taxpayers.
It’s really amazing that in all the confusion that surrounds ISIL’s many military successes in Iraq, mainstream US media hasn’t gone for the juicy bone that is the obvious corruption in the US military. Whatever you think of ISIL and the people who run it – mostly Saddam Hussein’s former officers, who, incidentally, had the wisdom and the cunning to vanish without a struggle during the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 – it is still striking that the Iraqi army, armed with US weapons and hardware, has been unable to stop the onslaught of a group of extremists. Incidentally, it is worth nothing that this is something that the Russians both predicted and warned the Americans about.
Misuse of money?
If one considers that ISIL has no air support, and that its fighters are not so numerous in strength even now, we are looking at some serious misuse of money by the Pentagon – not to mention gross incompetence on the part of its instructors.
Whatever you think of ISIL and the people who run it – mostly Saddam Hussein’s former officers – it is still striking that the Iraqi army armed with US weapons and hardware, has been unable to stop the onslaught of a group of extremists.
Since the Vietnam War, the US armed forces have had precious little to boast about when it comes to military victories. I sometimes wonder whether the reputation of the US army has not been created solely by Hollywood films and US TV dramas like “Band of Brothers”.
The Russian website repin.info made an effort recently to come up with some figures that shed some light on corruption during the war in Iraq. It reports some absolutely astonishing facts like electric plugs valued at $900 each for the US troops there when their real price was something like $5 and short piping costing $1.5 which went for $80.
Things got even more interesting when it was alleged that the Pentagon used a phony Alaska company to channel all contracts concerning Iraq with no paperwork available.
But now another problem with US training of foreign troops is coming to head, as Nato is pulling out of Afghanistan, with 140,000 troops having been cut down to just over 50,000.
We were always told by the Pentagon and Nato that the main purpose of keeping the troops in Afghanistan was to prevent the country ever being used as a training ground by terrorists – keeping terrorists off American streets, so to speak – and to train the Afghan army, to cope with the Taliban by itself.
The current number of the Afghan armed forces stands at an impressive 200,000, with another 60,000 planned to be added next year, and with nearly 4,000 US instructors involved in their training. Yet, all we hear about is the successes of the Taliban in controlling vast parts of the country and the possible eventual take-over of the country, once the bulk of Nato troops withdraw.
If we consider that the US has spent something like $55 billion on training the Afghan army and police, we can safely assume, taking Iraq into consideration, that we will see a similar situation on the ground once Nato has gone – that is, the Taliban moving in and taking over without any serious hassle.
Nevertheless, despite the obvious flaws in training troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are still hearing calls to send US instructors to the countries where the security situation is deteriorating.
Take Nigeria where the armed group Boko Haram has been scoring serious successes in the north and has even announced the creation of its own mini-caliphate in the north, following ISIL’s footsteps in Iraq and Syria.
A great deal of criticism has targeted the government of President Goodluck Jonathan for failing to organise a serious military response to the Boko Haram advance, with growing calls to increase the number of US advisers and instructors on the ground there.
But with images of the Iraqi army retreating from ISIL fighters, should that not serve as a dismal prognosis of what might ensue if the Yanks start training the Nigerian army, too?
Alexander Nekrassov is a former Kremlin and government adviser.