One of Barack Obama's objectives when he was elected to the White House was to pull all US troops out of Iraq as soon as possible. As Illinois senator, he had been one of the few to vote against the war. The withdrawal is to start in August 2010. After that date, Iraqi forces will be held responsible for the country's security. But until then, it is up to coalition forces to train them.
We don't know the exact date of the video, nor where it was filmed. We found out that it was posted for the first time on February 4, 2009. It became a hit when US link sharing website Digg published it.
“During a training session, it is usual to play with emotional stress”
I think he starts well but then he loses the control of the situation. He is an instructor, so during a training session, it is usual to play with emotional stress. He teases them to get a reaction. When I served in Iraq, we knew some of the Iraqi police officers had links with militias. And I understand why he is angry. Try to be at his place. These guys are scared to patrol down their streets and he risks his life every day! Some of his arguments are right.
However,the first thing they tell you before becoming an instructor is to keep cool.
Faking angriness is fine until you know you are calm. Here, we clearly see that the soldier, who seems to be an officer, is losing his temper and is venting his frustration at the recruits. He even says that he is ready to have a brawl with them. What if there was an Iraqi officer stronger than him who started to beat him up? He would have completely lost his credibility. At the end, I think his speech is totally counter-productive.
“It is true the Iraqi police lag behind the Army in terms of training”
Peter Harling is a senior analyst for the Middle East Programme of the International Crisis Group.
The US instructor talks to the troops as if they were a homogenous group, probably Shia. [The instructor first questions the Iraqi recruits' loyalty towards the Medhi Army, a Shia militia controlled by radical cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr and opposed to Nuri al-Maliki's government and the US occupation]. A few times he mentions their enemy as if they were clearly Sunni.
This video definitely portrays US troops training Iraqi police on a bad day, and it is hard to say whether this event is recurrent or not.
However, it is true the Iraqi police lag behind the army in terms of training. There is one reason for that: the police recruits locally and the other nationally, that is why the Americans first invested in the army, in order not to encourage local forces to develop.
But it is only recently that the coalition troops have concerned themselves with the underdevelopment of the Iraqi police forces.
What strikes me is that the US officer is having a go at the commanders, which is very rare and puts them in a delicate position in front of their own men.
This video will definitely not help the coalition before the start of the US withdrawal.