Reported by ABC News, General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said a renewed U.S. training effort may revive the issue of gaining legal immunity from Iraqi prosecution for those U.S. troop who are training Iraqis.
Dempsey’s statement followed his concerns that half of the Iraqi army is incapable of effectively working with the U.S. to push back the Islamic State group’s takeover in areas of western and northern Iraq. He said the other half needs to be rebuilt with training from the U.S.
The former Iraqi government refused to offer immunity to U.S. troops who remained as trainers after December 2011, the end of the U.S. military mission.
“This is about training them in protected locations and then enabling them,” Dempsey said.
“There will like be discussion with the new Iraqi government, as there was the last one, about whether we need to have Iraqi lawmakers approve new U.S. training.”
According to Stars and Stripes, the strengthening of Iraqi forces is only one part of a multidimensional campaign that President Barack Obama will be briefed on when he meets with General Lloyd Austin, head of U.S. General Command.
Training of Syrian rebels is another part of the plan, which is under harder scrutiny and may include airstrikes in Syria and Iraq. Also included as part of the campaign will be attempts to cut off finances to the Islamic State group. Obama will have to sign off on the plan and the Iraqi government will have to be consulted on how to adapt the program to fit their needs and priorities.
ABC News reported that Dempsey said U.S. military teams spent a large portion of the summer in Iraq analyzing its security forces strengths and weaknesses. Of 50 army brigades, 26 were deemed capable partners for the U.S. He described them as well led and well equipped, adding, “They appear to have a national instinct, instead of a sectarian instinct.” The other brigades were heavily weighted with Shiites and would not be part of a reliable national force.
Dempsey said the solution must begin with formation of an Iraqi government that is able to convince the country’s Kurdish and Sunni populations that they will be equal partners with the Shiites in Iraq’s future.
“I’m telling you, if that doesn’t happen then it’s time for Plan B,” he said.
Stars and Stripes reported that Dempsey also said the Islamic State fighters in Iraq have responded to weeks of U.S. airstrikes by making themselves less visible.
“What we’ve seen so far is, a lot of the black flags have come down, a lot of the convoys have dispersed, a lot of the (fighter) assembly areas have been moved into urban areas,” Dempsey said. “This will be a campaign of adaptation.”