The President says our plan is to train Iraqis and to turn over security operations to the local forces.
In furtherance of that goal, in late March the U.S. Army commander at Camp Taji decided to involve the Iraqi unit it was training to help clear a near-by city of insurgents.
According to an article in today’s Wall Street Journal (WSJ), the U.S. commander, Col. James Pasquarette, and his American staff developed a cleansing plan without consulting the Iraqis who had local knowledge. The Americans then invited the two ranking officers of the Iraqi army into a briefing where:
The two Iraqi officers were led through a 208-slide PowerPoint briefing, in which all the slides were written in English. The six areas the Iraqi troops were supposed to occupy were named for New England cities, such as Cranston, Bangor and Concord. The Iraqi officers, who spoke only Arabic, were dumbfounded. “I could see from their body language that both of them were not following what was going on,” says Maj. Bill Taylor, [another American officer present].
The WSJ headlined the article “A Camp Divided”, and its focus was on the two sides of Camp Taji. One side is the heavily-guarded compound where 10,000 American troops live in air-conditioned trailers. The other side is where, according to the Journal, “The Iraqi troops live in fetid barracks built by the British in the 1920s, ration the fuel they use to run their lights and sometimes eat spoiled food that makes them sick.”
The officer leading the American military advisors doing the actual training of the Iraqis has been removed from his position, accused of “going native”. This officer, a Col. Charles Payne, and his men lived and ate with the local Iraqis. They disagreed with the tactics of Col. Pasquarette’s command, and clashed over the disrespect the main U.S. force showed to Iraqi military trainees.
“A Camp Divided” ends with Col. Pasquarette the undisputed commander of the entire Taji camp, better isolated from the emotional native perspective of Col. Payne and his ilk.
Iraqis will govern and police their own country. The question is whether the governing, policing Iraqis will be those allied with us or whether they will be the terrorists/insurgent/freedom-fighters who currently oppose our presence there.
If Col. Pasquarette and his ilk win the chain-of-command wars, the U.S. will certainly lose ours. This 2006 version of Vietnamization is yet another reason why our country needs better than Rumsfeld and Bush.
Copy of the WSJ article in a friends-only post.
WSJ “A Camp Divided” online (subscription required)
If you aren’t on my friends list and don’t subscribe to the WSJ online, spend the money and subscribe.