Time for the No Troops Left Behind Act

Not quite ready for prime time

Far be it from me to want to damage the self-esteem of the nascent Iraqi fighting forces, but the end of the year report cards just came out and it looks like some of them aren’t going to be moving up a grade next year.

Also swept under the rug, according to an earlier Hearst report in the Detroit Free Press (thanks SA) are statistics on the state of readiness of Iraqi army units. It seems that the U.S. has decided to stop releasing detailed readiness reports. The decision, Hearst says, came after the publicly released reports “showed a steady decline in the number of qualified Iraqi units.”

That number is now classified. I spoke to a JCS source about this report. It appears that the issue in “the building” is that the four-tiered system used for rating Iraqi units was too stringent and perhaps “misleading.”

Under the system, Iraqi units are rated Levels 1 through 4, from most capable to least prepared, and though the Pentagon rated three Iraqi battalions in Level 1 — “capable of conducting attacks without U.S. involvement” — last June, by February, no Iraqi battalions were so rated.

The talking points stress that “Level 1,” that is, requiring no U.S. assistance whatsoever (meaning no assistance with logistics, intelligence, command and control, etc.), doesn’t describe a absence of readiness. Some NATO units, my JCS source says, could not meet the Level 1 standard.

The solution? Well, guess what, it isn’t to get more Iraqi units to Level 1 or come up with new standards that might reflect combat readiness; instead, the Pentagon decided to make the numbers classified. The Pentagon now rolls statistics into a larger grouping that combines Level 1 and Level 2.

My source though also muttered something very Washington and elliptical about not undermining the al-Maliki government, about “encouragement” and “progress.” He proved he could be national security adviser to the President in his carefully parsed explanation about conveying the wrong “impression” of both Iraqi readiness, that the statistics were really owned by Baghdad and it was up to them to reveal the readiness of their forces, not Washington.

Maybe we could buck up their spirits with Everyone Gets A Trophy Day

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Yeah. Like I would tell you....