Lessons From Iraq

Iraqi generals informed their US counterparts their military wasn’t ready to take on ISIS before the city of Mosul fell to the group, said Lt. Gen. Bill Bender, who served as deputy chief of the security cooperation office in Baghdad from July 2013 to September 2014. Bender, who is now the service’s chief information officer and chief of information dominance, said there were indications of ISIS’ threat growing before the group attacked Iraq’s second largest city. “And frankly our response was, from my perspective, was one that was committed to leaving, handing it back, and moving on, and was not adept at a mid-course re-steer in a direction that would … have changed our posture as a result of what we were seeing,” Bender said on Thursday during a Defense Writers Group meeting in Washington, D.C. His Iraqi counterparts, Bender said, specifically predicted the troops would abandon their uniforms and disperse before taking on ISIS. “They were very loud and clear, telling us what was happening, and we were, you know, just either not able to change that quickly or to address those types of changes in the environment,” he said. The Iraqi troops, Bender said, deserted because they did not trust then Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government and its ability to be fair and transparent with the country’s varying ethnic groups. As US troops help prepare Iraqi troops to retake Mosul, he said, the US government needs to make sure it has a full understanding of Iraq’s ethnic tensions “and [knows] what we can expect of our partners when, you know, there are other things driving their actions.”