By Scott Taylor
For those closely following the battle to defeat Daesh (aka ISIS or ISIL), it has become evident that there is presently a lull in the allied offensive to recapture Mosul.
Although very little news is reported about specific Canadian military involvement in this battle, we do have a couple of hundred special forces operatives assisting Kurdish militia and, from photos that occasionally pop up on the internet, our Canadian commandos are right in the thick of the fight.
An estimated 100,000 allied ground troops have been besieging Mosul since October 16 and, to date, they have managed to capture only the eastern half of the city. Some 3,500 Daesh fanatics remain, bunkered down in the western side of Mosul, just across the Tigris River.
While the battle to retake Iraq’s second largest city from Daesh evildoers is taking longer than anyone had predicted, the overwhelming superiority of the allied force combined with the U.S.-led aerial armada flying overhead means that the eventual defeat of Daesh is not in doubt. It was never a case of will Daesh be defeated, but rather when.
With that being the case, I read with some surprise last week a media report that the U.S.-led coalition was starting to organize, recruit and train an Iraqi police force to secure the Mosul area after Daesh is eliminated.
The Associated Press story described the scene at a Spanish army training centre for Iraqi police recruits: “The young men, mostly in their twenties and thirties, have had no previous training or experience. Many carried dilapidated Kalashnikov-style rifles, slung over their shoulders with rope or rubber-coated wire.” A Spanish army trainer told the reporter, “We start our program at a very basic level. When [recruits] arrive, they don’t have any skills.”
The Spanish army program is designed to spit out these ragtag recruits into a professional police force in just a five-week training course. Angel Castilla, the brigadier-general in charge of the Spanish training mission, admitted that this amount of training was inadequate, but blamed the “condensed timetable” under which he was obliged to produce a police force.
So the U.S.-led coalition knows that a professional police force is essential for ensuring long-term security in Mosul once Daesh is defeated, and their own commanders know that five weeks is about two years short of the timeframe necessary to train a professional policeman … yet they proceed with the program.
Einstein’s definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result. Has nothing been learned from the mistakes made previously in Afghanistan and Iraq?
If we are only prepared to invest five weeks of training into an Iraqi policeman, we are going to produce a gaggle of armed thugs who are woefully ignorant of the laws they are entrusted to enforce.
This problem was magnified in Afghanistan, where the vast majority of police recruits were illiterate teenagers. They could fire a weapon, apply handcuffs and march somewhat in step. But as they could not read textbooks or blackboards, Afghan recruits only received two weeks of training before getting their badges. Most could not read an identity card let alone actually solve a real crime.
However, they did understand that they had authority provided by their badges, and also by their weapons. This hastily trained and negligibly supervised force soon became the most hated faction in Afghanistan. Police stations were often attacked — not by insurgents but by enraged citizens, tired of being abused at the hands of the police force that NATO trained and equipped.
We would never put a policeman on a North American or European street with just two to five weeks of training. We also do not use our soldiers to train our police. Those are two very separate and unique professions. Yet that is exactly what Canadian soldiers were tasked to do in Afghanistan for years.
If the U.S.-led coalition is serious about securing Mosul, or any other sector of Iraq, then it needs to invest the proper resources and time to build an actual police force. We don’t need another mob of untrained, demoralized cannon fodder in uniform.