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"Western Training" And The Fight Against The Islamic State



By Moon Of Alabama

"Training" foreign troops seems to be some magic solution for various foreign policy problems. "Training" a new Iraqi army against the Islamic State is the latest of such a hoped for miracles. But all recent "western training" has been more problematic than successful.

The various foreign troops trained at the infamous U.S. Army School of the Americas, turned out to be capable, but only as torturers and death squads:
Observers point out that School alumni include: 48 out of 69 Salvadoran military members cited in the U.N. Truth Commission's report on El Salvador for involvement in human rights violations (including 19 of 27 military members implicated in the 1989 murder of six Jesuit priests), and more than 100 Colombian military officers alleged to be responsible for human rights violations by a 1992 report issued by several human rights organizations. Press reports have also alleged that school graduates have included several Peruvian military officers linked to the July 1992 killings of nine students and a professor from La Cantuta University, and included several Honduran officers linked to a clandestine military force known as Battalion 316 responsible for disappearances in the early 1980s. Critics of the School maintain that soldiers who are chosen to attend are not properly screened, with the result that some students and instructors have attended the School after being implicated in human rights violations.

Foreign officers trained over the last decade in various military "anti-terrorism" programs seem somewhat prone to coup against their government:
The army officer who has seized power in Burkina Faso amid popular protests in the West African country was twice selected to attend counterterrorism training programs sponsored by the U.S. government, U.S. military officials said.
...
Although the training he received was relatively brief, Zida’s experience carries echoes of other African military officers who went on to topple their governments after being selected by the U.S. government for professional military education courses.

In March 2012, an army captain in Mali who had attended a half-dozen military training courses in the United States led a coup that deposed his democratically-elected government.

The United Kingdom offered to train 2,000 Libyan "soldiers" to clean up the anarchy its attack on Libya created. In a first tranche 325 were recently selected, "vetted" and flown to the UK for some basic infantry training. Some 90 of them decided they did not want to be soldiers and asked to be flown home. Additionally some 20 claimed asylum. The rest tried to have some fun. Two stole bicycles, rode to Cambridge and sexually assaulted several women. Some others raped a male person. The training program has been abandoned and the rest of these "vetted" and "trained" gang was send home to presumably reenforce the anarchy there.

The U.S. trained the Iraqi army over several years and at a cost of billions of dollars. As soon as that army was assaulted it fell apart. Four divisions fled when attacked by rather minor forces of the Islamic State.

But do not despair. The U.S. has found the perfect way to solve the Islamic State problem in Iraq. It will now simply train a few new divisions and those freshly trained folks will then surely be able to defeat and destroy the Islamic State.
Iraqi security forces, backed by American-led air power and hundreds of advisers, are planning to mount a major spring offensive against Islamic State fighters who have poured into the country from Syria, a campaign that is likely to face an array of logistical and political challenges.
...
United States officials say that the initial force they are planning to advise consists of only nine Iraqi brigades and three similar Kurdish pesh merga units — roughly 24,000 troops.

The counterattack plan calls for at least doubling that force by adding three divisions, each of which could range from 8,000 to 12,000 troops.

The United States is relying on allies to augment American trainers. Australia, Canada and Norway have committed several hundred special forces to one or more of the training or advisory missions, a senior United States military official said.

For the expected quality of that farce and its training just see above.

The Islamic State is currently ruling over some 4 to 6 million people. It is recruiting and drafting among these to increase the size of its own army. How many able young men of fighting age can be generated from a millions strong, traditionally child rich population? 100,000? 300,000? The Islamic State has capable trainers from the old Baathist Iraqi army and it uses a fighting style that mixes guerrilla tactics and conventional warfare. It has captured enough weapons and ammunition to fit out several tens of thousands soldiers.

Even with air support the few forces the U.S. plans to train will be mince meat as soon as they will try to enter areas the Islamic State wants to hold.

The "western" military model is simply not fitting to the kind of conflicts encountered in other parts of the world. The mentalities, traditions, ideological incentives and education levels are much different.

"The west" still feels superior to "the rest" because it has, in the past, won so many colonial wars. But as Samuel Huntington once remarked:
The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non-Westerners never do.

It was an advantage in technology that allowed "western" forces to win in colonial wars. But at least in ground wars both sides now basically use the same technology and similar weapons. There is no longer a technical advantage and some basic "training" does not help much to escape from an incoming stream of hot machine gun bullets. The U.S. war of independence is a good example for this. While the British army still could win in other colonial wars a colonial fight against an enemy at a similar technical level but with higher motivation ended in defeat.

Any force that is supposed to grind down the Islamic State and its army needs an ideological motivation and will to fight that is at least equal to the one of the Islamic State fighters. As an attacking force it will also needs superior numbers. The U.S. and other "western" armies are unable to create such a force in Iraq. The only entities which can do such on short notice are the Iranian revolutionary guard and Hizbullah. Any efforts of "training" a new force against the Islamic State that does not involve those will be in vane.

The recent history of "western training" of foreign forces is a history of failures and defeat. It is stupid to assume that this time will be different. If the U.S. wants to defeat the Islamic State it will have to make nice with its other "enemies" and it will have to let them lead the training and the fighting. Anything else will likely fail and end up in a few decades with the embarrassing acceptance of a new state in the former territories of Iraq, Syria and whatever other country the Islamic State decides to slice apart.

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