I've long been suspicious of the word "training" as used by the U.S. military. I still am, especially given recent decisions to "train" yet more Iraqis.
Here's what I penned (with distinguished co-author Ray McGovern) nearly a decade ago in Washington's Iraq Chimeras by John Brown and Ray McGovern:
Training Iraqis will save the day. Training Iraqi troops to replace American ones has long been touted by the administration and the Pentagon as key to success in Iraq, a view reiterated last week by General John Abizaid in his testimony before Congress. On the surface, U.S. training of Iraqi soldiers and police seems like a viable option: It takes Americans out of the line of fire, it “softens” the impact of the U.S. occupation, making American soldiers appear to be instructors rather than aggressors, and, most importantly, it ideally gives Iraqis themselves responsibility for safety and order in their own country.
But there are many reasons to be skeptical about the effectiveness of U.S. training. First, report after report indicates the limited success -- and notable failures -- of U.S. training, including a recent article by Michael Scherer in Salon and yesterday's Washington Post report by Thomas E. Ricks.
Second, it is doubtful that American forces, the object of much hostility in Iraq, are sufficiently familiar with local conditions and traditions (not to mention the language) to impart even specialized military knowledge to Iraqi counterparts. Third, U.S. military training itself is by no means perfect or necessarily applicable, as a recent article in The Weekly Standard by Eric Egland, “Six Steps to Victory: The bottom-up plan to defeat the insurgency” suggests. Egland writes that:
According to one soldier in Iraq, his unit spent days going over how to clear a foxhole, something many had already trained to do numerous times in their careers. The problem is that the enemy we face in Iraq is not entrenched in foxholes, but moves fluidly and blends into the civilian population.
Of course, the key issue regarding creating a reliable home security force in Iraq is not “training” but—as neoconservative pundit Charles Krauthammer points out in one of his rare insightful moments—allegiance.
The chances of members of the various Iraqis under arms giving genuine allegiance to a central Iraqi government -- or to any likely Iraqi government in the foreseeable future -- range from slim to non-existent.
Indeed, ethnic and religious differences and widespread infiltration of the army -- not to mention the police -- by sectarian forces are so pervasive that it is debatable whether one can accurately speak of an “Iraqi Army.”