A secret Iraqi government report claims the officer in charge of defending Mosul was on vacation when Islamic State seized the city last summer.
The news, obtained Thursday by The Washington Post, is just the latest in an ongoing series of revelations about the corruption and incompetence that have weakened Iraq’s military amid the terrorist threat. Iraqi troops famously fled from advancing Islamic State fighters as they approached the strategic city of Mosul, leaving behind their American-made Humvees. (RELATED: Iraqi Politicians Pass Around Blame For Rise Of ISIS)
Since Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi came to power last September and uncovered thousands of nonexistent soldiers receiving government salaries, reforming the military has been among his top priorities.
According to the Post’s report, Lt. Gen. Mahdi Gharawi had gone on vacation from his post in Mosul even though intelligence had sent him multiple warnings of the group’s approach. The Iraqi troops that went to battle with the jihadis numbered less than a third of what the Defense Ministry had commanded. (RELATED: This ‘Critical’ Battle Against ISIS Has Been Going For Over A Year)
And at a stage where an Iraqi airstrike could have stopped Islamic State’s progress, such an airstrike “never happened.”
When Gharawi returned from vacation just hours before Islamic State attacked, he made the panicked decision to withdraw from the military headquarters in Mosul, riding in a convoy of Humvees. His troops panicked, thinking the commander was deserting.
The Iraqi military which failed against Islamic State is the same one that the U.S. spent $25 billion to build. And since then, the U.S. government has spent at least another billion to train and equip anti-Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria.
Abadi’s reforms have not taken hold immediately. Earlier this week, two generals were killed on the front lines by an Islamic State suicide bomber in a rigged Humvee. Their presence so close to the action raises questions about the army’s regular chain of command.
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