No Ground Troops? Don't Bet on It. The Iraqi Army Is In No Shape to Fight ISIS.


Iraqi Army

When President Obama committed the United States to "degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL [ISIS]" in a speech on September 10, he promised a body bag-weary American public that the effort "will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil." Well, maybe. Yesterday's air and missile strikes against ISIS in Syria certainly abided by that guarantee even as it widened efforts against the murderous group/budding shithole of a country. But the ongoing collapse of the Iraqi Army raises the question of just who will supply troops on the ground even as America rains death from the air.

Sunday, hundreds of Iraqi soldiers went missing—believed dead, grabbed, or bugged out—after their base, Camp Saqlawiyah, fell to a siege by ISIS forces.

This isn't the first fiasco suffered by the Iraqi Army in opposing ISIS. The militant group has acquired modern American weapons from fleeing Iraqi troops. Kirkuk Air Base fell when "Iraqi forces fled, stripping off their uniforms and discarding them in the dirt" before the enemy even approached the place.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says about half the Iraqi Army isn't up to the job.

That may be why, before the bombs started falling in Syria, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates suggested on Sunday that "some small number of American advisers, trainers, special forces and forward spotters for air controllers are going to have to be in harm's way."

Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair makes the same point, saying, "this is the hard truth—airpower alone will not suffice."

Some U.S. lawmakers are ready, and even eager, to follow up on that idea.

So far, President Obama is sticking by his promise that combat troops won't be committed against ISIS. But if local forces continue to flee the field when ISIS shows up, look for the president to "reluctantly" give in to the pressure to extend America's involvement in an Iraq War that just won't end.

Maybe the United States really needs to make a full-on commitment to defeating ISIS—it's a brutal group without doubt. But that's a discussion that should take place honestly, without coy assurances of a bloodless (for Americans) conflict. And it should be openly debated in Congress.


NEXT: 'I've Got a Pen and I've Got a Phone': Obama Launches an Unconstitutional War on ISIS in Syria

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  1. So you’re saying a command structure based on something other than training and merit does not make for effective military leadership?

    1. It’s like getting elected to office.

  2. Maybe the Iraq army can borrow some equipment from Podunk PD?

    1. Maybe we can deploy Podunk PD and they can tell ISIS to ‘Stop Resisiting’.

      1. Are you kidding? ISIS might shoot back!

  3. If you like your ground troops, you can keep your ground troops.

  4. I don’t see what the problem is? I think the Iraqi Army is a well trained, disciplined, killing machine.

  5. What I admire about Peter King is that he is far and away the biggest asshole in Congress, but he never rests, never settles, never stops trying to be an even bigger asshole. He’s a relentless asshole perfectionist.

    1. far and away the biggest asshole in Congress

      Hmm, he has a lot of competition.

    2. Maybe we should make King-units the standard measure for assholishness.

      1. It would need to be a fraction, yes? Like that guy is .1 king units. 1 being Pete himself.

        1. That’s good.

    3. Just in in the House, I think I agree.

      If you are including the Senate too though, I think he might only be 3rd or 4rth place.

  6. “Maybe the United States really needs to make a full-on commitment to defeating ISIS?it’s a brutal group without doubt.”

    Before we make that commitment, Barack Obama and the politicians in Congress who support this should explain, at least, two things:

    1) Why will using ground troops against ISIS be more effective now than using ground troops against the Iraqi insurgency was last time?

    2) Our occupation of Iraq in 2003 didn’t discourage the formation of an Iraqi insurgency; actually, our occupation of Iraq is what caused the insurgency to form in the first place. Our continued occupation of Iraq fed local support for the insurgency–it kept making them stronger.

    What assurances can the Obama Administration give us that putting boots on the ground won’t make ISIS even stronger?

    1. Because Obama is super cool and Bush was stupid.

    2. Because this time “the surge” will be done sooner.

      1. You’re being sarcastic, right?

        Before the surge, we had about 125,000 troops in Iraq. During the surge, we had about 165,000 troops in Iraq.

        Is Obama going to have to send 165,000 or more troops into Iraq again?

        Are we going to be met with flowers, again? Will our troops stay until the Iraqi people fall in love America–and ISIS no longer enjoys any popularity among Sunnis–since they all love being occupied by American troops again?

        I’ve already seen that movie!

        1. Yes he will. He won’t do it all at once but he will blunder his way into doing just that.

  7. HOVER BOOTS! No boots on the ground, dammit.

  8. OT: IRS infographic incoming. It showed up then disappeared.


    OT Megan McArdle let’s the mask slip. See the greens don’t want us to live in caves. They just want to force us to live in responsible dense urban environments. And she is down with that. What an authoritarian nitwit she is.

    1. Are environmentalists who want fossil-fuel divestment hypocrites if they don’t adopt a radically reduced carbon lifestyle? That’s a common charge among conservatives.

      Uh, no, it’s a common charge among people who are paying attention.

      1. She is such a loathsome idiot. She is absolutely the kind of person who would go fascist when the time comes.

    2. The first thing that environmentalists can argue is that they don’t want to use a carbon tax to make everyone live in caves; they want to use a carbon tax to push toward infrastructure changes and cleaner forms of power that will allow everyone to enjoy a plush lifestyle while emitting less carbon.

      Well, ok then, let’s consult the record:

      I took a random sample:

      1. If you can’t go car-free, try carpooling or car sharing, and use the smallest, most fuel-efficient vehicle possible.

      2. Unplug computers, TVs and other electronics when not in use. Wash clothes in cold or warm (not hot) water. Dryers are energy hogs, so hang dry when you can.

      3. Grow some of your own food. And eat low on the food chain ? at least one meat-free meal a day ? since 18 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions come from meat and dairy production. Food writer Michael Pollan sums it up best: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

      4. Air travel leaves behind a huge carbon footprint. Before you book your next airline ticket, consider greener options such as buses or trains, or try vacationing closer to home. You can also stay in touch with people by videoconferencing, which saves time as well as travel and accommodation costs.

      5. Host a presentation for your community or workplace by requesting a presenter trained by Al Gore

      So, nope, not even the suggestion that we pull back out lifestyle.

      1. “Host a presentation for your community or workplace by requesting a presenter trained by Al Gore”


  10. Let me be clear: I am not going to send an American boy to go off and do a job an Iraqi boy should be doing for his country.

    1. Should this Iraqi boy be fighting for his caliphate or fighting for his US-installed government?

  11. But we had to elect Obama or we would end up invading Syria or getting in a big war.

  12. Here’s the legalistic solution for the Great Prevaricator: Strip a bunch of U.S. soldiers of their citizenship and send them over as mercenaries.

    1. Hire blackwater.

  13. We got some brand new IDF rifles, never been fired, only dropped once!

    1. Ok ok, 5 dollas!

  14. Obama is going to end up with more troops in the Middle East than Bush ever had. Remember more than anything Obama is a feckless idiot. He is exactly the kind of moron who drags a country into really big wars.

    1. He might actually accomplish something I didn’t think was possible…

      People still remember Bush’s justifications for the invasion of Iraq for turning out to be false–there were no mobiles WMD labs, there was no collaboration between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, there was no yellow cake from Niger…

      If Obama occupies Iraq–for no reason–people might start to forget about Bush’s reasons entirely!

      …and I didn’t think there was any chance of that happening, ever! I mean, Bush may have invaded for bogus reasons–but at least there were reasons.

      1. Obama has reasons. He is terrified something will happen and he will get blamed for it. What happens when Isis finally hits Europe or the US in a big way? Obama panics completely and goes all in.

        1. I think he just might be as subject to sensationalism of the news cycle as anybody.

          I bet he sits around watching CNN all day; he watches them go all ISIS 24/7 after they behead a couple of journalists, and he thinks, “My God, we have to do something to stop this. Get the Pentagon on the phone–NOW!”

    2. And what is the left currently preoccupied with? Marching against climate change. Hopey changey got elected on a pseudo anti-war platform, and 100% of his supporters are whining about the Koch brothers while allies himself with Assad to destroy his enemies.

  15. . Kirkuk Air Base fell when “Iraqi forces fled, stripping off their uniforms and discarding them in the dirt” before the enemy even approached the place.

    That isn’t “fell”. That’s Iraqis telling the US-built Iraqi government that they don’t consider it a legitimate government anymore.

  16. What about Shia militias in the south? Don’t they at least outnumber (if not outgun) ISIS. It seems like we’re getting involved to try and have the outcome our way and keep southern Iraq from becoming a province of Iran.

    This makes sense in an imperialist realpolitik way, but even news sources opposed to re intervention don’t seem to ever mention it.

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