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US military steps up criticism of Iraqi forces

A CTS ITAC practices calling in an airstrike near Al-Asad Air Base during Exercise ‘Phoenix Fires' in October. (Special Operations Joint Task Force - Levant)

The US Department of Defense's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released its most critical report on the Iraqi security forces (ISF) to date on 5 November, when it highlighted a broad range of problems that include endemic corruption and poor command-and-control.

“The ISF continued to face challenges from corruption at every level,” the OIG said in its latest quarterly report covering July–September, which is largely based on information from the US-led Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) and various US military commands. The ISF's effectiveness is also undermined by personal vendettas, as well as infighting between and within ISF units and the ministries of defence and interior, it said.

CJTF-OIR now only has limited visibility of Iraqi operations as its advisors are only embedded with the Joint Operations Command – Iraq (JOC-I) in Baghdad and do not visit the provincial commands, which are providing incomplete reporting of their activities. Even the JOC-I appears to be minimising CJTF-OIR's involvement in planning operations that are then poorly executed.

The report gave a five-day operation in Al-Anbar in August as an example. It relied solely on intelligence from one Islamic State detainee and CJTF-OIR advisors were told about it only two days before it was launched. “The operation also suffered from a lack of operational level command and control, poor logistics support, and [a] general lack of tactical level execution which included operational units stopping for the day around mid-morning,” it said.

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