Iraq’s new army is “developing steadily,” with “strong Iraqi leaders out front,” the chief U.S. trainer assured the American people. That was three-plus years ago, the U.S. Army general was David H. Petraeus, and some of those Iraqi officials at the time were busy embezzling more than $1 billion allotted for the new army’s weapons, according to investigators.
The 2004-05 Defense Ministry scandal was just one in an unending series of setbacks in the five-year struggle to “stand up” an Iraqi military and allow hard-pressed U.S. forces to “stand down” from Iraq.
The latest discouraging episode was unfolding this weekend in bloody Basra, the southern city where Iraqi government forces — in their toughest test yet — were still struggling to gain the upper hand in a five-day-old battle with Shiite Muslim militias.
Year by year, the goal of deploying a capable, freestanding Iraqi army has seemed always to slip further into the future. In the latest shift, with Petraeus now U.S. commander in Iraq, the‘s new quarterly status report quietly drops any prediction of when homegrown units will take over security responsibility nationwide, after last year’s reports had forecast a transition in 2008.
Earlier, in January last year,said Iraqi forces would take charge in all 18 Iraqi provinces by November 2007. Four months past that deadline, they control only half the 18.