The word Grim used in a post to refer to the process of Shi'ite militias cleaning house was "disaggregation" and he argued that was good news because it got rid of the loose cannons who could not be controlled in a political deal. Today the NYT reports that the Iraqi government "dismissed 1,300 soldiers and policemen for refusing to fight or performing badly during last month’s offensive against Shiite militias in the southern city of Basra."
Now remember that despite this and the poor performance of other units the Iraqi Army still forced Sadr to pull in his men and continues to operate against the militias to the present. The Iraqi Army still emerged the victor of the battlefield, relatively speaking. Therefore the dismissal of these 1,300 men is really an after-action "disaggregation" to get rid of the deadwood.
The New York Times argues that the dismissals are proof of failure. It writes, "the dismissals were an implicit admission of failures during the government offensive, which was widely criticized as being poorly planned" but go on to add that "they [the Iraqi Army] claim to have restored order to the streets, and the nearby ports vital to Iraq’s oil industry" and that "American officials ... praised the Iraqi forces’ progress in being able to move 6,600 reinforcements south to Basra so quickly".
Whenever one reads about an Army that purges its nonperforming personnel while able to secure its objects and demonstrating an ability to maneuver its forces the conclusion is normally the opposite of the NYT's diagnosis. Here is an Army that is has performed fairly enough but wants to do better. Here is an army that wants to learn.
So while it is probably true that the Iraqi Army has a long to way to go to reach the desired standard it would have been far more worrisome if no one had been "disaggregated"; Basra had been left largely unsecured and reinforcements were still cooling their heels hundreds of miles away. Expect the operations against the militias to continue.
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