Billions from U.S. fail to sustain foreign forces

Military vehicles clog the road leading out of Kuwait City after the retreat of Iraqi forces from the city. In the foreground are looted containers and abandoned arms, and at right is a burned Iraqi Type 69 tank. (PHC HOLMES, US Navy)

There is a growing trend that  thousands of American-trained foreign security forces in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia are either collapsing, defecting, or stalling. This has called into question the effectiveness of the tens of billions of dollars spent by the United States on foreign military training programs.

The setbacks have been most noticeable in the three countries that have presented the greatest challenges to this administration.

The Pentagon trained both the Army and police in Iraq, the base of the ISIS militant group, but they have barely engaged its forces.

In Afghanistan’s Kunduz Province, several thousand American-backed government forces and militiamen were forced to retreat last week when they were attacked by Taliban forces.

In Syria, a $500 million program to train rebel forces to fight ISIS has produced only a handful of soldiers.

The American-trained forces face problems in each country, some of which is beyond the control of the United States. According to American military and counterterrorism officials, the one problem they all have in common is poor leadership.

Without the presence of their American advisers, many of these local forces have shown an inability to fight.

“Our track record at building security forces over the past 15 years is miserable,” said Karl W. Eikenberry, a former military commander and United States ambassador in Afghanistan.

The American military has trained troops in numerous countries for decades. After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the military was tasked to train more foreign troops, especially in Afghanistan and Iraq.

At the time, the ultimate goal was to replace the large American Armies deployed there.

According to the New York Times, the push to rebuild the Iraqi Army, which was disbanded by the U.S. in 2003, was successful. But then the effort quickly crumbled after the American troops left the country due to the politicization of the Army leadership under Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.

American officials say the politicization of the Army leadership eroded the military’s effectiveness at all levels.

In Afghanistan, there were some notable successes. Afghan Special Forces units trained by their American counterparts proved to be very capable fighters.

Despite the fact that American-trained military forces aren’t doing very well, the practice is likely going to continue for some time because President Obama, as well as Republican and Democrats in office, are reluctant to send large amounts of American troops to handle foreign conflicts.


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