To fight ISIS, U.S. shifts tactics on Iraqi army training: report

U.S. officials are also planning the formation of a new ‘national guard’ made up of soldiers from various groups around the country

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After the failure of the Iraqi army to defend the country’s second city of Mosul from Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants earlier this year, the United States is choosing to train a smaller number of Iraqi troops, rather than attempting rebuild the entire force, the Washington Post reported on Thursday.

After the ouster of long-term President Saddam Hussein after the 2003 invasion, U.S. commanders disbanded regime-era forces and raised a new army.

At its peak, the new U.S.-backed military comprised around 400,000 troops. However, by 2014, due to corruption and absenteeism, this number had shrunk by half, according to the newspaper.

After the lightning ISIS takeover of Mosul in June, four Iraqi army divisions - including a federal police unit - vanished, leaving the army’s fighting strength at only 85,000.

In response, instead of attempting to rebuild now-defunct divisions, U.S. commanders are instead committing to building nine new Iraqi army brigades, a frontline force comprising of up to 45,000 men, which an anonymous official said was key to the plan of a “kind of leaner, meaner Iraqi army.”

While U.S. officials hope that training a smaller number of crack troops will help the country fight ISIS, the eventual plan is the formation of a new “national guard” made up of soldiers from various groups around the country - including the Kurds - to come under the control of provincial governments, according to the newspaper.

Hakim al-Zamili, head of the Iraqi parliament’s security and defense committee, said that the committee was preparing to examine a draft of the law needed to establish a “national guard.”

The text of the draft law leaked to Iraqi media showed that the “national guard” program would attempt to recruit former officers from now dismantled Saddam-era forces.

Another anonymous U.S. official told the Washington Post that the Iraqi government has merged a “couple hundred” tribesmen into Iraqi forces as a measure taken before the “national guard” can be established.

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