Friday, March 16, 2007

Marine Commandant Conway: Disbanding Iraqi Army Was Big Mistake

In 2003, following the invasion of Iraq, the first act of the Coalition Provisional Authority under L. Paul Bremer (pictured) had been 'de-Baathification', the elimination from government of members of Saddam's Baath political party, most of whom had joined for the increased pay and benefits which membership in the party offered. They had been the country's administrators, responsible for such things as water, electricity, trash collection, sewage disposal. With de-Baathification, the basics of everyday living began to crumble along with the previous government. The Iraqi army -- 300,000 strong -- had been disbanded as the second act of the CPA. Going home without work and without a future, members had only their tribal and religious loyalties to count on. Many attribute these two acts as the well-spring of the insurgency.

The Marine Corps commandant, Gen. James T. Conway, told reporters this morning the biggest mistake made in Iraq remains the disbanding of the Iraqi Army-and that the effect of the decision still resonates today.

"The Iraqi Army was the most respected institution in the country," Conway said, adding that its anticipated help was "central" to American prewar planning for rebuilding efforts in Iraq. Instead, Conway said, following the dissolution of the Iraqi military, former Iraqi Army members turned against U.S. forces in places like Anbar province, a volatile, Sunni-dominated area currently under the control of U.S. marines.

He added that the Iraqi police are "probably more effective now in Anbar than any other area of the country."

Read the rest at U.S. News and World Report

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