CNN is covering the “graduation ceremony” for the first batch of US-trained Iraqi Sunni militia fighters in the Anbar Province, an event which was attended by a number of high-ranking Iraqi officials. The US has been presenting the introduction of Sunni fighters to the Shi’ite-dominated government’s side as a turning point.
But the description of the ceremony and comments from the fighters tell a different story. The graduating Sunnis, some as old as 60, arrived in myriad ramshackle uniforms, and were kept out of ear-shot while politicians droned on about the success of their training. They left, part way through.
If Iraq’s regular Army has been struggling from low morale, there is no sign the new recruits will be any better, with morale already clearly flagging, and many complaining that in the four months since they signed up they haven’t been paid at all. Iraqi officials confirmed this, blaming slow bureaucracy.
These irregular troops, unpaid and armed with whatever light weapons the Iraqis had left over, are being presented as the cure-all for a failing ISIS war, but even they don’t seem to believe the hype. With the Iraqi government insisting they provide their own uniforms and buy their own food, and promises of salaries never materializing, it seems likely this program will end like the graduation ceremony, with the Sunnis leaving part-way through, unnoticed and barely remarked upon.