Reuters reports: A 17-month U.S. effort to retrain and reunify Iraq’s regular army has failed to create a large number of effective Iraqi combat units or limit the power of sectarian militias, according to current and former U.S. military and civilian officials.
Concern about the shortcomings of the American attempt to strengthen the Iraqi military comes as Iraqi government forces and Shi’ite militias have launched an offensive to retake the city of Falluja from Islamic State. Aid groups fear the campaign could spark a humanitarian catastrophe, as an estimated 50,000 Sunni civilians remain trapped in the besieged town.
The continued weakness of regular Iraqi army units and reliance on Shi’ite militias, current and former U.S. military officials said, could impede Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s broader effort to defeat Islamic State and win the long-term support of Iraqi Sunnis. The sectarian divide between the majority Shi’ite and minority Sunni communities threatens to split the country for good. [Continue reading…]