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As an advisor in Iraq in 2012, I implemented fairy tale policy while Iraq was drifting toward civil war

by Norwood Aug 11, 2016
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As an advisor in Iraq in 2012, I implemented fairy tale policy while Iraq was drifting toward civil war

I deployed to Iraq in 2012. On the way over, I was 27 years old and eager to fight. I headed into the international zone in the center of Baghdad. My mission to advise the Iraqi Special Operators to help them adjust to an environment in which they did not enjoy direct U.S. military support. We were their advocates and confidantes. I spent the next six months working with their commando school.

Little did I know I was heading into a deeply frustrating experience, perhaps the most confusing of my life.

It soon became clear to us that our mission would not succeed, because no matter what we did, Iraq was drifting toward civil war. Al Qaeda in Iraq was conducting assassinations and morphing into something powerful. ISIS was beginning to emerge.

Also, our Iraqi counterparts did not really trust us, and why should they? We had gone into Iraq, we had left, and now we were back — but for how long?

And so we had a hard time with the Iraqi government. We couldn’t get the amount of training ammo we needed for new recruits to be assessed and trained. Closed door conversations lent the strong suspicion that the government was stockpiling ammo as a preventative measure for the coming Shia — Sunni civil war.

Iran was on Iraq like white on rice. Mookie, Muqtada Al Sadr’, and his friends, Shiite militias like Asa’in Ahl Al-haq returned to Iraq, after exile in Iran. They quickly established a television channel and extended a welcome to Iranian sleeper cell surrogates. Every day, I felt as though my movements were observed and reported to Tehran.

Iraqis quietly expressed their concern to me that Iran was taking over Iraq, and no one was doing anything about it. The distrust of their comrades ran so deep that some would stop talking to me the second another soldier entered the room, regardless if the other one was a friend. Sunni soldiers gradually faded into the background, relatively unnoticed. Some went AWOL, supposedly because they preferred military prison to being in the regular Iraqi army. Almost all new recruits were Shia.

In the midst of all this, it was difficult for us to know what to do that would be in the best interest of our Iraq. Of course, there really is no such thing. It was never ours.

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