2004 November 09 Tuesday
High Iraqi Army Defection Rates At Fallujah?

National Public Radio's Anne Garrels says one Iraqi battalion lost two thirds of its troops at Fallujah from mass desertions.

A National Public Radio correspondent embedded with the Marines outside Fallujah reported desertions among the Iraqis. One Iraqi battalion shrunk from over 500 men to 170 over the past two weeks - with 255 members quitting over the weekend, the correspondent said. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld called reports of some Iraqi recruits not showing up to fight ``an isolated problem.''

US military officials acknowledge that at least 200 Iraqis deserted.

U.S. military officials said Monday that at least 200 Iraqi troops had deserted their posts in the American-led offensive on Fallujah, illustrating the predicament faced by men who are torn between orders from commanders and outrage from their countrymen. Another 200 Iraqi troops were estimated to be “on leave.”

“Some people were afraid because they received threats,” said Sgt. Abdul Raheem, an Iraqi soldier. “They were afraid of death.”

A couple hundred more were given permission to just desert temporarily?

The US military and Iraqi commanders estimated that up to 200 Iraqi troops had resigned, with another 200 "on leave".

Here is another desertion report but it is not clear if it overlaps with the previous ones or what the unit size was in question.

An Iraqi captain told a reporter at a staging area earlier in the day that 100 Sunni members of his unit had deserted rather than fight.

Only one Iraqi battalion outside of Fallujah is still substantially intact and it has few Sunni members.

The weekend's desertions reportedly left only one fully intact Iraqi unit deployed with the Marines on the outskirts of Fallujah – the 36th Battalion, whose troops were recruited mostly from Kurdish and Shi'ite militia. "If the 36th turns out to be the 'Iraqi face' of the new government in Fallujah," noted one worried administration official, "it'll be seen as another occupation force."

There might have been 1000 Iraqi soldiers accompanying the US forces into Fallujah.

FALLOUJA, Iraq — Ten thousand U.S. troops and more than 1,000 Iraqi soldiers in tanks and on foot attacked this insurgent stronghold Monday night in a long-planned offensive aimed at ending guerrilla control of the city.

Is this estimate of 2000 Iraqi soldiers at Fallujah based on staffing levels of assigned Iraqi battalions before desertions are factored in?

An estimated 6,000 U.S. troops and 2,000 allied Iraqi soldiers invaded Fallujah from the north Monday night in a swift start to an offensive aimed at re-establishing government control ahead of the elections.

...

Some 10,000-15,000 U.S. troops have surrounded Fallujah, along with allied Iraqi forces, according to the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. George Casey. Commanders estimate around 3,000 Sunni fighters are in Fallujah, perhaps around 20 percent of them foreign Islamic militants.

There are 6 Iraqi battalions total at the moment (see below). The figure of 2000 Iraqi soldiers at Fallujah suggests that 4 of those 6 Iraqi battalions were assigned to Fallujah before defections. But probably only one of those battalions did not suffer substantial defections.

Note that even with the probably excessively optimistic estimate of 2000 Iraqi soldiers fighting for the Iraqi government and an assumption that 20% of the insurgents are foreign would still leave 2400 Iraqi insurgents at Fallujah and therefore even without defections there would have been more Iraqis fighting against the government than for it.

Suppose the desertion rate of Iraqi Army soldiers at Fallujah is really as high as the media reports suggest. US Army General George Casey, Commander, Multinational Force Iraq (i.e. he is the top US officer in Iraq) argues that the Iraqi military is in the process of getting so large that the non-defectors will be able to do the job the US would like them to do.

Q General, Jamie McIntyre from CNN. Assuming that Fallujah works out as well as you hope, what more remains to be done between now and January so that elections -- credible elections can be held in Iraq?

GEN. CASEY: Jamie, as you know, we're fighting a counterinsurgency operation here, so there's a range of political, economic and military tasks that need to be accomplished between now and then. The primary thing that we need to do is to continue to generate Iraqi security forces on the -- at the pace that we are -- the plan to generate them on.

Right now, there are -- up until the end of October, there were six Iraqi battalions in the Iraqi army. Now there are 12. By the time that we get to the election, there will be 27.

Right now we have about 40 National Guard units. They're not all fully trained and fully equipped. There will be -- we will have 45 fully trained and equipped by the elections. The police, the border guards, everyone else will continue to grow.

Between the end of September and the election, we are going to add about another 45(,000) or 50,000 Iraqi security forces to the Iraqi theater here. So that -- we will continue to do that. We'll continue to get them seasoned, and that's the first thing.

Can this strategy work? Take the figure of 27 battalions. Suppose when faced with a fight two thirds of them will quit. Suppose, as well that the deserters do not switch sides and make the insurgency even bigger. There'd still be the equivalent of 9 battalions of soldiers left. But would these non-deserting soldiers actually fight the insurgents? Keep an eye out for reports on the Fallujah fighting. Did any of the non-defecting Iraqi soldiers contribute to the fighting in a substantial fashion? Or are they just following the US soldiers into the city to become occupiers once the heavy fighting is over?

Of course, some deserters will defect to the insurgency. In fact, what better way for a would-be insurgent to get trained than to join the Iraqi Army and get trained, paid, fed, and equipped to fight?

Foreign withdrawals from Iraq mean that more of the work has to be done by US troops and hopefully non-defecting Iraqi troops. The countries that have already withdrawn troops include Spain (1300), Dominican Republic (302), Nicaragua (115), Honduras (370), Philippines (41), and Norway (down from 155 to 15). More withdrawals are coming with even Poland pulling the plug at the end of 2005.

Two large contributors to the international force - Britain, with 12,000 troops, and Italy, with more than 3,100 - have insisted they will not withdraw. But Poland, the fourth-largest contributor, with 2,400 troops, says it intends to withdraw by the end of next year, and the Netherlands, with 1,400 troops, said this week that the latest rotation of troops would be its last contribution to Iraq.

New Zealand is withdrawing its 60 engineers and Thailand said it wanted to bring home its 450 troops. Singapore has reduced its contingent to 33, from 191; Moldova has trimmed its force to 12, from 42. On Wednesday Bulgaria's Defense Ministry said it would reduce its 483 troops to 430 next month, Reuters reported.

The US military isn't big enough to substantially increase US force size in Iraq. Lots of foreign contributions are ending? Can so many Iraqis be recruited into the Iraqi military that even after desertions there will be a force big enough to at least substantially help the US military put down the insurgency?

Thanks to Greg Cochran for the tip on the NPR desertion report.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2004 November 09 01:30 PM  MidEast Iraq New Regime Failures


Comments
gcochran said at November 9, 2004 2:23 PM:


I'm sure they just needed more training.

But seriously, folks, there aren't many Iraqis eager to fight for us or for our puppet government. I think the word "puppet' is fully justified, since we installed Allawi, who's a long-term CIA agent. Hmm.. what could possibly make a government _less_ legitimate?

Derek Copold said at November 10, 2004 9:22 AM:

This is a passage from Stratfor.com, which was quoted on Andrew Sullivan's blog:

"No Iraqi army or national guard unit fought in Al Fallujah, sources close to the Interim Iraqi Government (IIG) say. Iraqi national guard units reportedly have refused to attack guerrilla positions; their commanders have been unable to make soldiers move forward and some officers are siding with the troops. Only the Iraqi army's special forces unit, which is mostly Kurdish, helped search for hidden guerrillas behind U.S. Marine lines outside the city. Hundreds of Iraqi soldiers have deserted to bases around Al Fallujah, the sources added."

IOW, with the exception of the Kurds in the 36th, those Iraqi soldiers who have not deserted aren't fighting and are close to mutiny, if not actually there.

Invisible Scientist said at November 10, 2004 9:39 AM:

Derek,

1)Are the deserting or discouraged Iraqi soldiers refusing to fight because they
don't want to fight against their own countrymen (orother Muslims who came to Iraq from
other countries) on behalf of the United States?
2)Or is it because they actually want the insurgents and local guerillas to
win, just to force the US to leave Iraq?
3)Or is it because they really want the extremist Islamic movement to conquer and rule Iraq?

What's the most important reason? The answer to these questions should shape the U.S. future
policy for Iraq. Not paying attention to the motivations of the local people is a disaster.

gcochran said at November 10, 2004 10:20 AM:

Be fair Derek: you have to mention Sullivan's quotes from Belmont Club.


Sometimes I wonder where idiots like that come from. We get to hear breathless tactical analysis of a one-sided fight whose outcome could be predicted by a blind four-year old. Of course the hajis can't stand up to the Marine Corps in open battle, not even in street fighting. Of course most of the insurgents, especially including Zarqawi, had already left Fallujah - we've telegraphed that punch for what, four months?

The problem is that we have no side at all - or at best the Kurds, which ain't enough. Very few Iraqis are willing to fight for us or for our puppets. That was to be expected: nobody with any understanding of history or human nature would ever have expected anything else. Now in fact there _is_ a way to get these people to fight for us - a way to subdue Iraq. Schrecklichkeit. If you hold their families hostage, they'll fight. If you shoot deserters at the drop of a hat, they'll fight. Simply hold all of Iraq hostage: we could get them to do damn near anything. We could get them to clap for Bush until they pass out.

Derek Copold said at November 10, 2004 2:35 PM:

IS,

I'm sure the answer is a combination of all three factors. At any rate, it doesn't matter. Whatever the reason, it means they hate us more than they hate the supposed enemy.

Derek Copold said at November 11, 2004 8:24 AM:

And now our wonderful allies appear to be shooting at U.S. troops:
http://www.boston.com/news/world/articles/2004/11/10/searching_streets_tension_and_confusion/


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