Over $80 Billion Wasted in “Training” Iraqi, Afghan Forces: No Lessons Learned

There simply is no level of duplicity that Iraqi or Afghan military leaders can engage in that will lead to the US re-examining the failed assumption that “training” armed forces in those countries will stabilize them. Between the two efforts, the US has now wasted over $80 billion and more than a decade of time just on training and equipping, and yet neither force can withstand even a fraction of the forces they now face.

The latest revelations of just how failed the training effort has been are stunning, and yet we can rest assured that they will be completely disregarded as decision-makers in Washington continue to pour even more money into a cause that has long ago been proven hopeless.

Consider the latest revelations.

We learned yesterday that a cursory investigation in Iraq has already revealed at least 50,000 “ghost soldiers”:

The Iraqi army has been paying salaries to at least 50,000 soldiers who don’t exist, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Sunday, an indication of the level of corruption that permeates an institution that the United States has spent billions equipping and arming.

A preliminary investigation into “ghost soldiers” — whose salaries are being drawn but who are not in military service — revealed the tens of thousands of false names on Defense Ministry rolls, Abadi told parliament Sunday. Follow-up investigations are expected to uncover “more and more,” he added.

We can only imagine how much larger the total will become should Iraq actually follow through with a more thorough investigation, but already one Iraqi official quoted in the article hinted the monetary loss could be at least three times what is now known. But that isn’t even the worst condemnation of US practices in this report. Consider this quote that the Post seems to consider a throw-away since it is buried deep within the article:

“The problems are wide, and it’s an extremely difficult task which is going to involve some strong will,” said Iraqi security analyst Saeed al-Jayashi. “Training is weak and unprofessional.”

So the glorious training program in Iraq, which was proudly under the leadership of ass-kissing little chickenshit David Petraeus when it was being heralded, is now finally exposed as “weak and unprofessional”. And the US will do exactly diddly squat about these revelations. Recall that last week we learned that the Defense Department does not consider reducing corruption to be part of their role as advisors in Iraq. I’ll go out on a limb here and predict that when confirmation hearings are held for a new Secretary of Defense, there won’t be a single question aimed at asking how our current training program will be improved to avoid the failures that have been so clearly demonstrated in the previous attempts.

The situation in Afghanistan, although it is receiving less attention, is no better. Reuters reported yesterday on how poorly equipped Afghan forces are for dealing with the Taliban, despite over $60 billion that the US has spent to train and equip those forces:

Afghan district police chief Ahmadullah Anwari only has enough grenades to hand out three to each checkpoint in an area of Helmand province swarming with Taliban insurgents who launch almost daily attacks on security forces.

“Sometimes up to 200 Taliban attack our checkpoints and if there are no army reinforcements, we lose the fight,” said Anwari, in charge of one of Afghanistan’s most volatile districts, Sangin.

“It shames me to say that we don’t have enough weapons and equipment. But this is a bitter reality.”

The article goes on to utterly destroy the ridiculous statements from Joseph Anderson, commander of ISAF Joint Command, back on November 5. Despite Anderson claiming that Afghan forces “are winning”, Reuters points out that claims that the ANSF remains in control of most of the country are grossly overstated:

And while the coalition says Afghan forces control most of the country, the reality on the ground can be very different.

Graeme Smith, senior Kabul analyst for the International Crisis Group, says that in many remote districts, the government controls a few administrative buildings “but the influence of Afghan forces may not extend far beyond that point”.

And yet, despite this clear history of failed efforts to train and equip forces, the US now plans to spend more than another $5 billion fighting ISIS. If it weren’t for the carbon dioxide that would be released, it would probably be better for all of us if that money were simply incinerated.

12 replies
  1. Don Bacon says:

    In Iraq, it was all about the numbers.
    General Peter “Perfect” Pace, JCS Chairman, Jan 5, 2006:
    “I mean, take 2005, as an example. It was an incredible year. About a year ago, there were only a handful of Iraqi army battalions in the fight. Today there are 100 battalions in the fight. A year ago, there were zero Iraqi brigade — operational brigades. Today, there are 31 brigades. A year ago, there were zero Iraqi division headquarters operational. Today there are eight. ”
    Incredible — you got that right, Perfect. This was the same song that we heard from Petraeus, Caldwell and all the rest of the lying generals. Teach a recruit to load and clean a rifle, hold it up with the business end forward and pull the trigger, and then push him out the door “in the fight.” –Or rather to the local bazaar where he sells the rifle and heads home.
    “I didn’t fire him [General MacArthur] because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was, but that’s not against the law for generals. If it was, half to three quarters of them would be in jail.” — Harry S Truman
    Actually they are more dishonest than dumb, these days, and yet they are above the law just like the criminals in the White House.

  2. Don Bacon says:

    ” the US now plans to spend more than another $5 billion fighting ISIS”
    But they will not do it by training and equipping the fictitious Free Syrian Army, as advertised. They know that doesn’t work. There will instead be a large ramp-up in “special operations” i.e. Murder, Incorporated.
    Army Maj. Gen. Michael Nagata, chief of CENTCOM Special Forces, an acolyte of General McChrystal with years of experience in special operations, is now in charge of training and equipping Syrian operatives.
    U.S. officials have said that training will occur in Saudi Arabia, Turkey and two other countries. Some training is already believed to be happening in Qatar, while training might also take place in Jordan, a close U.S. ally where the United States has previously trained special forces from other Middle Eastern countries.
    Modeled after U.S. special forces, the Counterterrorist Pursuit Team was set up in the months following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2002 to penetrate territory controlled by the Taliban and al-Qaida and target militants for interrogations and assassinations by CIA officials. The same concept will be employed in Syria/Iraq/Iran.
    Iran is still the main objective. Nagata: “The United States government has made no secret that it considers Iran a state sponsor of terrorism. And those terrorist activities, in the Middle East, and elsewhere in the world have two effects that we deeply care about. First of all sometimes they are direct threats to America and American interests. More broadly, they are threats to stability, which threaten both the safety, but also the economic prosperity of the United States and everyone else that is effected by those things.”
    The Pentagon has taken over the CIA secret war function, with Nagata reporting to the Head Spook Admiral McRaven, who in turn reports directly to the White House.

  3. P J Evans says:

    It hasn’t failed as long as the contractors who actually get the money are profitable. If we weren’t enabling the contractors, we might be able to get out of those places.

    • Don Bacon says:

      LTC Daniel Davis — the author of–
      Truth, lies and Afghanistan
      How military leaders have let us down
      I spent last year in Afghanistan, visiting and talking with U.S. troops and their Afghan partners. My duties with the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force took me into every significant area where our soldiers engage the enemy. Over the course of 12 months, I covered more than 9,000 miles and talked, traveled and patrolled with troops in Kandahar, Kunar, Ghazni, Khost, Paktika, Kunduz, Balkh, Nangarhar and other provinces.
      What I saw bore no resemblance to rosy official statements by U.S. military leaders about conditions on the ground.
      and then–
      Danny Davis Didn’t Tell the Half of It
      Pentagon as Lying Machine

  4. Don Bacon says:

    May 8, 2007, Admiral Mullen, CJCS: “I honestly believe this is the most dangerous time in my life. The enemy now is basically evil and fundamentally hates everything we are — the democratic principles for which we stand … This war is going to go on for a long time. It’s a generational war.”
    Feb 26, 2013: General Dempsey, CJCS: “We are living in the most dangerous time in my lifetime. I will personally attest to the fact that [the world is] more dangerous than it has ever been. There is no foreseeable peace dividend. The security environment is more dangerous and more uncertain.”
    With guys like this around, it surely is dangerous and will stay so, by design. There’s so much money in it.

  5. bevin says:

    These boondoggles have many angles: on the one hand there is the General (why not Field Marshal?) of a ghost army, indenting for rations, arms, munitions and pay for ten thousand men who don’t actually exist; on the other hand there is the trainer, perhaps corporate, perhaps military, (perhaps neither or both) invoicing the government for training those non existent soldiers. Then there is the Pentagon proudly presenting the mirage of armies of non existent men whose pay, rations, arms, uniforms (yea, even unto boots and packpacks) have been sold to wahhabi militias, to Press Conferences in which journalists pretend to have been taken in by official boasts, perhaps even watched the ghosts parading for inspection…

    The good thing is that ghost soldiers, graduates of ghost training courses, bearing shadow arms into non-existent combat are infinitely preferable to the real, murderous, thing. Far better that the money for training be wasted than that it bear fruit in night raids, attacks on wedding parties and military operations.

  6. Don Bacon says:

    Stripes, Dec 1

    War contractors ready for battle against Islamic State
    President Barack Obama has stressed that the U.S.-led coalition fight against the Islamic State can be won without “boots on the ground.” But it depends on who’s wearing the boots.
    Thousands of private security contractors, who played critical, below-the-radar and at times controversial roles in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, are being asked to consider joining this latest battle against Islamic extremists in Iraq and Syria and possibly elsewhere in the Middle East. [i.e. Iran] What specific jobs they will fill, and which departments or countries will be paying for their services, remains to be seen. But the demand for their considerable and varied expertise is expected to be high, and that’s welcome news for both the contracting companies and politicians, according to policy advisers and industry experts.
    During the height of the U.S. military “surge” in Iraq in 2007, more than 180,000 private contractors were stationed throughout the region, according to Peter Singer, a military strategist and senior fellow at the New America Foundation.
    “It was greater than a 1:1 ratio to U.S. forces — a lot like parallel troops,” Singer says. “The number goes down as U.S. forces shrink, but the bottom line is they didn’t go away. They’ve just shifted to different roles — from analysts to translators and security guards to training the Iraqi Air Force.”
    Training and equipping foreign forces in Syria is a key component of the administration’s plan to defeat ISIS, and signs already point to a plan that involves at least a partial reliance on private security firms to assist — and not just in Syria.
    “We’re seeing the framework be put into place,” Singer says. “In August, the U.S. Army Contracting Command posted a notice for contractors willing to work an initial 12-month contract that will focus on force-development operations.”

  7. Ambrellite says:

    I can see the headline now: “Iraq’s prime minister forced to acknowledge Iraq’s 50,000-strong secret “ghost army” after investigators expose missing documents.”

    Our military leadership is as dysfunctional as our civilian leadership, and they have just as many allies in the media who have their own reasons to white-wash the entire disastrous affair. We’ll “look forward, not backward,” as our leaders keep on telling us that their doomed-from-the-start plans were defeated by chance events nobody could have predicted, so there’s no need to change strategy or question the assumptions that failed catastrophically.

  8. Don Bacon says:

    Davis: COIN Is a Proven Failure
    The resistance to brutal US military occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan has been erroneously called insurgency, therefore labeling the force necessary to put down this resistance as counter-insurgency lacks credence.
    FM 3-24 Counterinsurgency
    Legitimacy Is the Main Objective
    1-113. The primary objective of any COIN operation is to foster development of effective governance by a legitimate government.
    A US puppet government is not legitimate.

  9. crazyhead says:

    Someone was paid to train these “Ghost soldiers.” Someone was paid to equip them. Someone is being paid to resupply them. If the DOD or the Obama Administration is serious about doing something all of these people will be tracked down and brought to justice. But I’m not holding my breath.

  10. Don Bacon says:

    Obama has covered up those who committed torture under Bush despite a treaty which requires that these torturers be brought to justice, so dishonest generals are still free to become high-paid “consultants.”

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