Tags: Iraq | Iraq in Crisis | ISIS/Islamic State | Middle East | War on Terrorism | Iraq | United States

US Troops Return to Train Weakened Iraqi Military

By    |   Tuesday, 14 Apr 2015 06:12 PM

U.S. troops, returning to Iraq on training missions, are finding the previously trained army in serious disrepair.

Lt. Col. John Schwemmer recently returned to Iraq for the first time since 2011 and told The New York Times that he "was kind of surprised" by the state of the Iraqi soldiers.

"It's pretty incredible," Schwemmer said. "What training did they have after we left?"

There are 300 American soldiers at the training base, Camp Taji, as well as some Marines working at the Al Asad airbase in Anbar Province. They are the only U.S. troops that are not in Baghdad. They are there only to train, and are not considered "boots on the ground."

However, the Times notes that Camp Taji is still very close to what some may consider the front lines of the fight against the Islamic State.

Even though the likelihood of getting hit by ISIS is low, soldiers still wear body armor.

Maj. James Modlin told the Times that when he "left in 2009" he knows "they had it. They really did.

"I don't know what happened after that," he said.

"We used to say that every deployment was different," said Modlin. "But we quickly found out that this time was completely different from any other time. The Iraqis know that this time we’re not going to do it for them, and they appreciate that."

However, the Americans now question if any new training will stick better than the last, especially considering the fact that the last training was considered such a success at the time.

That being said, training continues and with a greater level of mutual trust then existed during the Iraq War when soldiers worried about insider attacks.

The difference, Schwemmer said, is "the common enemy that ties us together."

The newly trained soldiers are praising their training, the Times is reporting.

"We've never had training this good," said Iraqi Sgt. Ali Mesin Hamid. "We'll be ready for a real fight."

The Iraqi soldiers at Camp Taji undergo a six-week training program. A total of 4,600 have already graduated. Another 3,600 are undergoing training.

While Schwemmer says the Iraqi soldiers will leave trained, "there's a big difference between trained and seasoned."

After the United States left, the Iraqi military fell victim to corruption among its own leaders, leading many soldiers to defect.

The weakened military left an open door for ISIS to be able to easily capture Mosul in June. They almost reached Camp Taji at the time.

There is debate how many troops are now part of the army, which once had 280,000 members. Iraqi Defense Minister Qais al-Rubaiae says it's at least 141,000. Others say it is 50,000 total.

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U.S. troops, returning to Iraq on training missions, are finding the previously trained army in serious disrepair. Lt. Col. John Schwemmer returned to Iraq for the first time since 2011 and told The New York Times he "was kind of surprised" by the state of the Iraqi army.
Iraq, United States, Army troops, US, train, military, weakened, Camp Taji
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2015-12-14
Tuesday, 14 Apr 2015 06:12 PM
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