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20 August 2006


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no problem, Col. Lang, outsource it! the scheme is for Iraq to acquire those services from US contractors, paid for via US aid agreements (offset with oil futures?). Uncle Sam Wants You! - to start a war business.

W. Patrick Lang


Ah! Rumsfeld as generalissimo again...

Could be.

Unfortunately, the same problem is as likely to exist for the IA as for ours in a lot of situations.

Logistical contractors work so long as you can provide them security.

When you can't, they stop working. pl


Col Lang: Maybe we should refer to the "New Iraqi Army" as a Constabulary. Oh, well, at least their uniforms aren't Black and Tan.

John Shreffler

Col., you have an outstanding blog. Many thanks. Matthew is spot on about the Iraqi "Constabulary." We had one of those in the Philippines pre-1941, so the idea's not new. It seems to me that there's no greater reason to expect the Iraqi Constabulary to be able to fend for itself than there would have been for the Philippine one. Not enough time available in either case. Logistics are the least of the problems confronting the Iraqis. Their own version of Japan abuts them to the east and owns half the country already, to whit Iran.

W. Patrick Lang


My father was an officer of the Phillipine Constabulary, having previously been a sergeant in the 26th Cavalry Regiment (Phillipine Scouts).

The constabulary before 1935 was strictly a rural police operation. It dealt with criminals of various sorts and handfuls of Igurot, Ifugao or Moro "bandits" as occasions warranted. It remained a police force until it was essentially subsumed by the new Filipino army that MacArthur set out to build after 1935. Perhaps it is the Army of the Commonwealth of the Phillipines that you are thinking of.

My dad's setup in the Mountain Province in the 20s and 30s was typical. He had a bunch of police stations and 50 odd mounted constables. Stone tipped arrows and old Spanish rifles were the threat.

The Iraqi army is going to have to fight enemies as tough and as heavily armed as the ones we have met in Iraq, and the ones that the Izzies have just bounced off of in Lebanon.

Are you suggesting that Iraq is a colonial posession of the United States and we will be there permanently to "back them up" as the US Army was there to "back up" the PI Constabulary and later the Commonwealth army? pl


Well, if John wasn't suggesting it, I am.


Iraqi forces cannot have a bona-fide administrative-support 'tail' until their government runs the country without control from interlopers.

As the recent engagement between Israel and Hz/Lebanon demonstrates, although it clearly can be argued that Israel won on point (if destruction of infrastructure is a criterion for example), they lost emotively, not only because they didn't clearly 'win' in the field, but also because Hz was increasingly seen as a creditable and very brave (therefore spiritually honorable) group, which is therefore inspiring, whereas Israel, as the politically and technologically superior power in the region, functioned mainly - or merely - as a misguided bully, meaning that as long as their opponents fought bravely and skilfully (which they did) they couldn't 'win'.

This shows that there is more to military force than factual results alone. This means that overall policy and vision are important.

America 'won' in Iraq military speaking, no question about it. But then what?

Arguing about this sort of thing by comparing fundamental religious doctrine is missing the point; but at some point the underlying vision, and therefore morality, of overall policy is of key importance. As results on the ground have been showing most vividly.

Is anybody learning, that is the question...


"Are you suggesting that Iraq is a colonial posession of the United States and we will be there permanently to "back them up" as the US Army was there to "back up" the PI Constabulary and later the Commonwealth army?" pl

Unless the next President decides to change course, I am afraid that we will be there and will have to back the Iraqi force du jour. As our current President has stated he has no plans to change much of anything and it seems like he is proceeding on the basis of a "permament" presence. A question is if he will be successful at "colonialism" like the Brits where with their divide and rule approach.


Col Lang
Is it possible that the lack of logistical support units in the New Iraqi Army is by design, i.e. a pretext for US forces to remain in Iraq permanently?


If you don't plan to leave Iraq under any circumstances, the lack of logistics for the iraki army is a non event.


The reason for lack of supporting services might be the overriding need to put as many iraqi soldiers in the field, while logistics can be handled by some american guys from the relative safety of some base.Why dedicate men and effort to something which does not produce immediate results anyway?
Thus building an army which can actually stand on its own us put on the back burner.
And besides why would you want a really independent Army?
Politics wise, wouldn't an army which does the fighting and dying but is completely reliant on the US for everything be a better solution from the american POV?
Furthermore it is not just the logistics that has been neglected.If the info I have is correct (and please, please correct me if I am not right) the iraqi army is fielding two mechanized brigades plus many infantry battalions without any artillery.
Nothing bigger than mortars, not even a single battery of towed howitzers.Zero, nothing, nada.Antiarmor and air defense got the same amount of attention. I would understand a lower priority but total neglect of artillery and such when you are fielding brigade size formations seems a bit strange to me, if true.But it would offer some clues about the purpose of such force and the amount of trust placed on them.


Col. Lang, is there a possibility Muqtada al-Sadr would now be feeling embolden enough by Hizbollah's example to attempt a coup d’état of the elected Shiite government?


Col, to answer your last question : wasn't that the original Rumsfeld plan? A lightly armed IA which would need US support against both domestic and foreign enemies. To be provided by US troops based in-country, and paid for out of oil taxes (not revenue, since oil was to be privatized). A colony? Yes, in all but name.



Here's the short answer:

Iran will do it for it's chunk of Iraq, Turkey will do it for it's part and the rest of Iraq (the part with lots of Sunnis and no oil) will be on it's own.

I realize this is a simplistic answer, but we cannot ignore the fact that weather the US stays in Iraq or leaves is a domestic US political issue (as are all Bush WH decisions) and not a US foreign policy issue.

Just my two cents,



I believe that the White House position on withdrawal is "when conditions on the ground permit", or something close. I would surmise that it would take another 2-3 years to build up a working military infrastructure. So....we'll be there...how long? A couple of additional thoughts:
1. Col. Lang has written of our own long logistics tail to re-supply. If we remain in Iraq, but scale back to only logistics troops for sustenance of the Iraqi army...we still have that same logistics weak spot. OR, if Iraqi trucks come down to Kuwait for supplies, the weak spot still exists. When the insurgents decide to go after the supply lines...katy bar the door.

2. I continue to suspect that many of the police force and army forces are infiltrated by persons loyal to various insurgent groups. And if we hand over supplies and equipment to the Iraqi army? We might find many instances of hand grenades, machine guns, mortars, etc. winding up in the hands of the insurgents. For instance, our own mortars are pretty darn good. Suppose a half dozen mortars and shells get into the hands of the trouble-makers. Suddenly, we experience pin-point attacks into the Green Zone or into one of our bases.

Are we in quicksand?



Iraq as a colonial posession or a protectorate of United States? Whether or not that was the intent wasn't it the effect of the Bremer CPA and it's plans for Iraq? If the plans had worked it would have left a weak central state totaly dependent of outside protection. With Iraqs resources open for the approved companies to exploit.

Of course the plans didn't work and the ME region as a whole is now in danger of total disintegration like Byman and Pollack op-ed in WaPo suggest today.


US Military

Air support: Yes
Armor: Yes
Communications: Yes
Artillery: Yes
Transportation: Yes
Military Industry: Yes
"smart" munitions: Yes
Naval support: Yes
Special Forces: Yes
Capacity to win war in Iraq: ?

Iragi Military
Any of the Above: No

Not only is the Iraqi military unable to stand up and take over, the US cannot afford to actually build a real army in Iraq for fear of misuse against the population. Arming a bunch of men with old AK-47s and a half ass collection of body armor does not an army make.


The reason for the existence of the Iraqi 'Army' is twofold.

1. Absorb and amalgamate the various militias currently supporting the US

2. Help reduce American Army body count by using the expendable Iraqis where possible.

Building up a foundation for a long lasting and free standing force is not on the agenda. What do you wanna do? snatch the food from the mouths of hungry US constractors?



New article by the War Nerds out. It's a wrap up of the Lebanon war so far.

I guess you can tell I like this guy :-) No bullshit and no spin. He (mostly) tells it like it is.


You've made a very telling point Col. Lang. I would also like to suggest that the reality is worse than that because all those services you mention require infrastructure, and that infrastructure needs to be defended and protected.

I guess my point is that I doubt that even if the Iraqi army could magically be provided with infrastructure and support services, that it would be capable of protecting them from insurgents, let alone mounting any sort of combat operations.

On a totally different note, I've read somewhere (here?) that American commanders are under orders to minimise casualties, and as a result, troops are spending most of their time stuck in FOB's - forward operating bases. Recently the insurgents have started firing rockets into these bases. The only cure I know for this is very aggressive and constant patrolling by day and night until you know every rock and blade of grass within twenty five miles, and I'm not sure this is happening.

I'm getting an extremely uncomfortable feeling that the endgames in Iraq will look like reruns of Dien Bien Phu or worse. You know - the good guys sitting in the fort while the Indians circle around outside. All the insurgents need is sufficiently bad weather to preclude air support.


Col. Lang—

Does the Iraqi Army have any worse logistics than the Sunni or Shi’a militias?

The hopeful unified country scenario seems to be passing us by. The Shi’a who won the election and the previous constitutional drafting and ratifying battles haven’t been willing to soften their take enough to convince the great bulk of Sunni sectarian insurgents to stop their strikes against Shi’a. Particularly with a clear and eqiuitable oil revenue sharing plan, as opposed to allowing regions to potentially keep much for themselves, thereby cutting the oil poor central Sunni regions out. Maliki hasn’t moved enough and it’s all taken too long for the low levels of patience. For the last six months the Shi’a have been striking back with terror raids of their own, and are starting to gain the edge as I understand it. I don’t see how any of this is going anywhere but worse.

I assume what would happen if we left would be a low tech fairly low intensity combat that was very bloody, didn’t follow the rules of war at all on any side, that often targeted civilians, and that ended up ethnically cleansing and separating Baghdad neighborhoods and other mixed communities.

It seems likely to me that the Iraqi army would soon fight pretty exclusively on the Shi’a side of the sectarian battle, with Kurds going home up north (to the extent there are any in the Bagdhad parts of the IA now) and Sunnis deserted for their sectarian militias.

I imagine after awhile the Shi’a would win decisively since they are much larger in number and have at least as good an arms supplier (Iran) as the Sunni side -- which relies on hidden caches from the Saddam days and some smuggled in arms from Jordan and Syria I’d guess. The Shi’a are likely to be as brutal as necessary to cause the Sunnis to really stop. A strongman will rise to the top, either as a man behind the elected President Malaki or as an outright Shi’a dictator. That could well turn out to be Muktadar Sader.

If the Shi’a win is less decisive and really protracted then the country would split in three I’d imagine. I can’t see a Sunni victory over the whole country. They don’t have any monopoly on heavy arms (no one has much) or on a willingness to die or kill the other sides civilians. Further I don’t think Iran would let Sunnis seize control of southern Iraq. If we kept some sort of force in the region (40k?), say at Qatar, that plus our air forces could presumably deter the Iranians from simply rolling in with a large regular conventional army. But using commandos and militia trainers and suppling arms etc they could I’m pretty sure keep the South out of Sunni control.

So in any of these scenarios we have either all of Iraq or the most oil rich southern part at least closely allied with Iran, or possibly their puppet. Certainly in the near and middle term.

I don’t see how we avoid that if we stay for another 4 years. It’s simply in the cards in any scenario where Iraq’s major military power has been crushed and Sunnis don’t dictatorially control the whole country with that military.

Any thoughts?

julie putam

In the "Assasin's Gate" book the author quotes an officer under Garner who was deep in negotiations with Iraqi officers representing units that had held 100,000 troops when Bremer not only ended the negotiations, but cut off pay. They pay was later reinstated after protests, but of course the result was many of these officers becoming the enemy.

The usual claim is a lie.

John Shreffler

Col. ,

I see that the thread took up my idea and ran with it. If you dismantle a running army with all the trimmings and replace it with a police force, it isn't too far a stretch to imagine the intent to create a lasting protectorate. The current Iraqi army reminds me of the Indian Princely state formations or the Philippine Constabulary. Neither seem to have been intended to stand on their own and the current Iraqis seem quite like. Even assuming that self-sufficiency is our current goal for them, I just don't see them getting the time they'd need, given where they stand right now.


"Iragi Military
Any of the Above: No"

Actually while they lack most of the above they have approximatively 90 tanks (T-72M1s for the most part) and a few hundreds of APCs and IFVs.

"I continue to suspect that many of the police force and army forces are infiltrated by persons loyal to various insurgent groups. And if we hand over supplies and equipment to the Iraqi army? We might find many instances of hand grenades, machine guns, mortars, etc. winding up in the hands of the insurgents."

The new iraqi army has already all of the above, included possibly some automatic grenade lauchers as well.

"For instance, our own mortars are pretty darn good. Suppose a half dozen mortars and shells get into the hands of the trouble-makers."

The iraqi guerrillas have already plenty of mortars.
The M120 may have a relatively greater range than the M43 or whatever the locals are using, but it still a pretty conventional smoothbore design.


I suspect that the grand plan of the Bushies is to build the Iraqi army strictly as a light infantry force, with air, armor and logistics provided by the US. This justifies the building of the 4 superbases in Iraq as permanent installations.

I suspect all along Rumsfeld wanted these permanent bases in Iraq as his Mid-east focal point. I doubt he has any intention of letting Iraq have a truly independent capable military. That way, the US will permanently have leverage over the Iraqi political class so they do our bidding. Unless a new Administration changes things, I see 30,000 troops in Iraq forever.

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