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Muddling Through: An Analysis of Security Force Assistance in Iraq

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Technical Report,01 Jun 2016,31 May 2017

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US Army School for Advanced Military Studies Fort Leavenworth United States

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From 2003 to 2011 the US military invested eight years of warfighting and almost 25 billion to build, train, equip, and sustain the Iraqi Security Forces ISF in order to achieve a peaceful and secure Iraq. Several leaders within the Obama administration at the time remarked that ISF were ready to take over the defense of their country following the US military withdrawal. Three years later, in a shocking overturn, the ISF disintegrated in the face of an ISIS advance on the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. This monograph re-examines the efforts to build, train, equip, and sustain the ISF from 2003 to 2011 using the lens of security force assistance SFA planning and its relevant doctrine in order to better assess why the Iraqi Army was not prepared to face an external threat from ISIS. The conclusions are that, rather than doctrinal failures, large scale institutional failures within the Department of Defense and the Department of State led to an inability to focus on the most important aspects of security sector reform, namely, investments in defense institutions critical to sustain military forces for the long term. The implications of these observations are critical to future SFA efforts, as the US government seeks to continue a long-term strategy of advising and assisting foreign partners in order to strengthen their own stability and security.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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