US Officials Admit Effort to ‘Retrain’ Iraqi Army a Failure

17 Months Into Effort, Army Remains Weak, Heavily Dependent on Militias

After the US-trained and armed Iraqi military collapsed in the face of ISIS offensives in 2014, the US embarked on a broad effort to retrain and reorganize the military. 17 months into this effort, US officials are increasingly admitting the effort is another failure.

Retired Lt. Gen. Mick Bednarek, who commanded the US training mission until last year, said the Iraqi Army has not improved much, saying the big problem is a lack of recruitment and retention in the Iraqi forces, saying the US officers are ready to train who shows up, but are never sure who that’s going to be.

Other US officials complained that the Iraqi military’s commanders are too cozy with the Shi’ite militias they so heavily depend on in the war, and that many of the US arms being transferred to the Iraqi military “either because of corrupt commanders or outright robbery,” end up in the hands of the militias.

Iraqi Defense Ministry officials defended this, saying the militias are an “official body” connected to the armed forces, though indeed the fact that the Iraqis are still so heavily dependent on the militias for serious combat underscores just how weak the proper military remains.

The militias have been heavily criticized by human rights groups, with many cases of “liberated” Sunni towns being left under the control of Shi’ite militias who engage in looting and violent retaliation against suspected “ISIS supporters.”

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of