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August 6, 2008: A growing U.S. military function in Iraq is providing training for their Iraqi counterparts. This has been going on four years now, and some American troops are coming back for second tours as trainers. These second timers have noticed a big difference in the capabilities and attitudes of Iraqi troops over the last two years. The Iraqis are much more competent and confident. They are also much less political, with fewer troops being more loyal to some religious or tribal leader, than to the army.

U.S. trainers who are doing this for the first time, are able to take advantage of previous trainers experience via message boards and email. The U.S. Army (which provides most of the trainers, with the other services providing the rest) keeps track of Iraqi army units, calculating an effectiveness rating. This information is kept secret, as even the Iraqi government might be upset as some of the less flattering evaluations. But the Iraqi government is constantly pressured to deal with the corruption, and commanders who bought their jobs, or used family/political/tribal influence to get promoted. In these situations, the subordinate officers and NCOs are often clean and competent, and very resentful of their dirty boss. Sometimes the U.S. advisors can get the corrupt commander removed, but often they just have to work with the guy.

U.S. trainers are increasingly finding that Iraqi troops need less training (on basic skills) and more advice on tactics and the latest techniques. Some U.S. Marine Corps trainers capitalized on this more equal arrangement by exchanging the U.S. flag they normally wear on their uniforms, with one that is half U.S. and half Iraqi flag (divided diagonally).

 


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