Speed Reads

Crisis in Iraq

U.S. plans to build 'leaner, meaner Iraqi army'

When the Islamic State swept across Iraq earlier this year, it met little resistance from an Iraqi army hobbled by corruption, sectarianism, and poor management. Years of effort by American trainers and hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars appeared to vanish over the course of a few weeks. So when President Obama proposed strengthening the Iraqi army as part of his plan to roll back ISIS and stabilize Iraq, eyes could not have rolled harder, at least among war skeptics.

We now have some concrete details about the Obama administration's plans, courtesy of The Washington Post. The U.S. does not plan to rebuild the Iraqi army wholesale, and instead has adopted a limited goal of establishing nine new brigades — 45,000 troops total — that will serve as a vanguard force to counter ISIS. (At its peak, the Iraqi army had 400,000 troops.)

"The idea is, at least in the first instance, to try and build a kind of leaner, meaner Iraqi army," said a senior U.S. official, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss planning. [The Washington Post]

U.S. officials recognize that this force will not be enough to retake cities under ISIS' control. But they plan on the force being bolstered by a "national guard" composed of provincial fighting forces that basically resemble militias.