Monday, November 13, 2006

What sort of army are we standing up?

It's stuff like this that makes me question whether Iraq is "winnable" in any sense we'd recognize.

Brig. Gen. Shakir Hulail Hussein al-Kaabi was chosen this summer by the Shiite-led government in Baghdad to lead the Iraqi Army’s Fifth Division in Diyala Province. Within weeks, General Shakir went to Colonel Jones with a roster of people he wanted to arrest.

On the list were the names of nearly every Sunni Arab sheik and political leader whom American officers had identified as crucial allies in their quest to persuade Sunnis to embrace the political process and turn against the powerful Sunni insurgent groups here.

“Where’s the evidence?” Colonel Jones demanded of General Shakir. “Where’s the proof? What makes us suspect these guys? None of that stuff exists.”

To that, Colonel Jones recalled, the Iraqi commander replied simply, “I got this from Baghdad.”

The incident was one of many that alarmed Colonel Jones, who just completed a yearlong tour as commander of American forces in Diyala. In the end, he said, he concluded that the Iraqi general’s real ambition was to destroy the Sunni political movement here — possibly on orders from Baghdad.

The article goes on to detail how the Iraqi military is increasingly being wielded as a weapon by Shiites against Sunnis -- and that the orders seem to come from Iraq's central government, thus making it part of the problem rather than a bulwark against sectarian anarchy.

Proponents of "staying until we win" in Iraq need to detail exactly what "winning" entails -- and how it will be achieved in the face of such realities.

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