Talabani Rejects American Training For Iraq's Army
Isn't it going to be difficult to turn things around in Iraq if President Talabani comes out against embedding thousands of American trainers and advisors into the Iraq army? The central tenet of the "Go Bigger" or "Go Long" strategy, or whatever the hell Bush will call it on December 18th, is the idea of adding thousands of troops to Baghdad to improve security, and to redirect the mission of thousands more from policing to training the Iraqi army to stand on its own. Now Talabani rejects any such mission as an unwelcome infringement upon Iraq's right to control its own army and security forces.
And what is Talabani's specific complaint? He says that the Bush Administration has flopped at training the Iraqis to date. Well, he's got us on that one. Bush and Rummy have failed, and have yet to equip the Iraqis to function as a stand alone army.
Talabani says with a straight face that the Americans should let Iraq control its own army, yet that army isn't functioning now. He apparently is quite willing to let our troops keep dying in a police action while his army flounders, his police services tolerate militia infiltration, and his government abdicates its own responsibilities. To be sure, the Bush Administration is largely responsible for the sad state of Iraq's army and police, but the Iraqis share the blame here. If Talabani rejects American assistance to help the Iraqi army stand up, then the Iraqis should take over now, and the Americans should withdraw to safe bases and focus their efforts on Al Qaeda in Iraq and sealing the borders. Let Talabani's army deal with Baghdad's security.
And that may be behind the renewed talk over the weekend about dumping Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The talk isn't coming necessarily from Washington but rather from Baghdad, where the pro-Iranian SCIRI, sponsors of the Badr Corps, and the moderate Sunni leadership are in discussions to dump al-Maliki and replace him with a SCIRI choice, while excluding Muqtada al-Sadr's parliamentary bloc from the new government. This would put the country and our forces on a course towards a military confrontation with al-Sadr's Mahdi Army, and Talabani may be indicating that the removal of al-Maliki and the al-Sadr bloc from parliament would allow for reconciliation between the Shiites and Sunnis, and therefore a quicker transition to full Iraqi control and a reduced American role. But would it?
Update: The White House is now distancing itself from any suggestion that there is a move afoot to dump al-Maliki, and you can decipher that as you see fit.