General Babaker Zebari

General Babaker Zebari, center (photo: Stephen Baack on Flickr)

BBC is reporting Thursday that Iraq’s highest ranking army officer has said that his country is not ready to take responsibility for its own security:

Lt Gen Babaker Zebari warned that the Iraqi military might not be ready to take control for another decade.


Gen Zebari told a defence conference in Baghdad that the Iraqi army would not be able to ensure the country’s security until 2020 and that the US should keep its troops in Iraq until then.

"At this point, the withdrawal [of US forces] is going well, because they are still here, but the problem will start after 2011," he said.

It should be kept in mind that the myth of training Iraqi forces to take over their own security is a product of General David Petraeus’ long history of spinning the media. Remember that Petraeus entered the realm of politics by publishing an Op-Ed in the Washington Post on the eve of the 2004 elections. His overly optimistic description of his "success" in training Iraqis is thought to have played at least a partial role in helping George W. Bush to a second term as President. Here is the heart of Petraeus’ 2004 spin:

Nonetheless, there are reasons for optimism. Today approximately 164,000 Iraqi police and soldiers (of which about 100,000 are trained and equipped) and an additional 74,000 facility protection forces are performing a wide variety of security missions. Equipment is being delivered. Training is on track and increasing in capacity. Infrastructure is being repaired. Command and control structures and institutions are being reestablished.

Less than three years later, of course, Petraeus then led the political spin surrounding his "surge" in Iraq, sending in more troops and starting anew on the training mission. The previous claims of training success were discarded without note and training started all over.

Today, the Obama administration is employing semantics to claim the end of combat operations in Iraq this summer while leaving 50,000 combat-ready troops in Iraq under a re-designation as advisers. This move allows the myth of Petraeus’ training of Iraqi forces to remain in operation, while the advisers stand ready to fill the gaps left by the poorly trained Iraqi forces.

Thus, Zebari’s plea can be read as a request to keep these advisers in Iraq for another ten years. Heaven forbid anyone should try to pierce the political aspirations of Petraeus and admit that his claims to training are a total scam perpetrated on the US government and the citizens who have funded his self-aggrandizement. Just consider the adulatory tone of this American Forces Press Service article from April, 2009:

Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the author of the military’s counterinsurgency manual, yesterday explained the principles that led to success in Iraq and how they apply to the fight in Afghanistan.

The commander of U.S. Central Command spoke to a packed stadium at Kansas State University, invited as part of the prestigious Alfred M. Landon lecture series on public issues hosted there.

To a resounding ovation, he stepped to a podium that has seen three standing presidents and five former presidents, the current and three previous defense secretaries, a slew of politicians, ambassadors, Pulitzer and Nobel prize winners, but only a handful of military generals since the series began in 1966.

With his own Ivy League doctorate degree and tours as a military professor, Petraeus is no stranger to academia and is friends with the university’s president.

This article should remove all doubt on the question of whether Petraeus has political aspirations. Not only does he have them, but he is willing to use the military press to start building a presidential aura. As long as the government and the corporate press hold onto the myth that his superior ability to train foreign forces allows those countries we have destroyed to eventually take over their own security arrangements, he will continue on his path of eventually running for President.

Should General Zebari continue to provide evidence against the Petraeus training myth, it would not be surprising for him to be replaced soon. The Petraeus myth is quite fragile at this point and I would suspect that anyone who is seen as a threat to it would be slated for silencing.