So Colonel Zibari, then the second in command of the Second Brigade of the Second Iraqi Army Division, drove their truck to a traffic circle in the middle of a known insurgent haven on the crowded west end of the city and doused it with gasoline.
Then he set a gas-soaked rag on fire, tossed it on the ground and fired a burst from his AK-47, blasting the flaming cloth into the truck. He let the whole thing burn.
REUTERS/Mahmoud Raouf Mahmoud (IRAQ)
“This is what we do to insurgents’ property!” he shouted to the rooftops.
When American military officials talk about “Iraqis in the lead,” Colonel Zibari is an example of what they mean: Iraqis operating their own checkpoints, doing their own patrols, using their own intelligence. American officials acknowledge that Iraqi methods often deviate from standard military doctrine but say that even rough-hewn tactics are more acceptable than the prospect of an indefinite, if more professional, occupying force.
The Bush administration says that an Iraqi Army capable of fighting on its own is a crucial prerequisite for the eventual withdrawal of American troops. But since its disbandment in 2003 by Coalition Provisional Authority Order No. 2, the Iraqi Army has struggled to regain its footing. For years, Iraqi troops have been hampered by poor training, corruption, equipment shortages and a determined insurgency that has killed twice as many Iraqi soldiers and police officers as American troops.
Now, five years into the war, American commanders say that the reborn force is coming into its own. And Mosul, an ethnically mixed city that has been under stepped-up assault by insurgents and where Iraqi Army units far outnumber their American counterparts, offers a possible glimpse into the future. But the Iraqi Army’s performance in Mosul so far suggests that while the Iraqi forces are taking on more responsibility and have made strides, there are still troubling gaps.