Will Iraqi Commandos Trained by U.S. Be Turned Into Another Republican Guard?

Anxiety Hovers Over Iraqi Commandos reads the title of Tim Arango’s July 13 “Baghdad Bureau” post in the New York Times. When one reflects back on all the suicide bombings directed at Iraqi police trainees, that would seem to be an understatement. Arango managed to secure an “embed” with a U.S. Special Operations unit training Iraqis to be commandos. He writes:

These units have worked together since 2003, and so a certain anxiety about what comes next for Iraq — and for their relationships — hung over the conversation. … “Most of the people don’t want the Americans to leave,” said one Iraqi commander, offering his analysis of public opinion here. … He had harsh words for Moktada al-Sadr … who has threatened renewed violence in the country if an element of American forces stays behind this year to keep training Iraqi security forces. … The Americans will leave soon, but the fighting will continue. … “These people are fighting a war in their own country,” said one of the soon-to-depart Americans.

One assumes that Arango’s skimpy post is the first in a series, but he gives no such indication. Since it raises more questions than it answers we contacted Jack Murphy, an eight-year veteran of the 5th Special Forces Group, who has just published a new military action novel Reflexive Fire. His last assignment overseas before leaving the service last year was training these same commandos in northern Iraq. Murphy responded:

The options I see for the guys we trained:

1. The Iraqi government uses them to eliminate political opposition (this has been happening for years now).
2. The Iraqi government disbands them because they see any competent military unit as a threat to their own political power.
3. These units go rogue and becomes bandits or a gang.
4. The Iraqi government doesn’t understand how these units work so they use them as their own bodyguards.

Of course probably all four of those things will happen at the same time when we leave.

It would be yet another Iraq tragedy if the commandos were used as Saddam Hussein did his Republican Guard. One would hope that, before withdrawing, the United States would create an incentive system for Iraq to keep the commando corps self-sustaining.