News You Really Need To See: “U.S. Financing Fails to Sustain Foreign Forces”

“U.S. Financing Fails to Sustain Foreign Forces”

The New York Times, October 4, 2015, p.A1

With alarming frequency in recent years, thousands of American-trained security forces in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia have collapsed, stalled or defected, calling into question the effectiveness of the tens of billions of dollars spent by the United States on foreign military training programs, as well as a central tenet of the Obama administration’s approach to combating insurgencies.  The setbacks have been most pronounced in three countries that present the administration with some of its biggest challenges.  The Pentagon-trained army and police in Iraq’s Anbar Province, the heartland of the Islamic State militant group, have barely engaged its forces, while several thousand American-backed government forces and militiamen in Afghanistan’s Kunduz Province were forced to retreat last week when attacked by several hundred Taliban fighters.  And in Syria, a $500 million Defense Department program to train local rebels to fight the Islamic State has produced only a handful of soldiers. American-trained forces face different problems in each place, some of which are out of the United States’ control.  But what many of them have in common, American military and counterterrorism officials say, is poor leadership, a lack of will and the need to function in the face of intractable political problems with little support.  Without their American advisers, many local forces have repeatedly shown an inability to fight. … In northwest Africa, the United States has spent more than $600 million to combat Islamist militancy, with training programs stretching from Morocco to Chad.  American officials once heralded Mali’s military as an exemplary partner.  But in 2012, battle-hardened Islamist fighters returned from combat in Libya to rout the military, including units trained by United States Special Forces.  That defeat, followed by a coup led by an American-trained officer, Capt. Amadou Haya Sanogo, astounded and embarrassed American commanders.  French, United Nations and European Union forces now carry out training and security missions in Mali.  In Yemen, American-trained troops and counterterrorism forces largely disbanded when Houthi rebels overran the capital last year and forced the government into exile.  The United States is now relying largely on a Saudi-led air campaign that has caused more than 1,000 civilian casualties.”

Quickie analysis:  A damning narrative of the Obama administration’s worldwide failure to buy effective counterterrorism forces.  As it turns out, military aid, training, and toys aren’t substitutes for morale and good governance.

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