Measuring Iraq's Security Forces

The U.S. is counting on Iraq's security forces to take on greater responsibilities. But despite some progress, the Iraqis remain plagued by desertion and sectarianism--if they're even awake. Why the U.S. still can't stand down

Jeffrey Allen / AFP / Getty

Iraqi army soldiers aboard a U.S. Air Force C-17 aircraft that will take them to the southern city of Basra to join an offensive against Shi'ite militias.

Lieut. Colonel William Zemp is full of praise for the 700 Iraqi troops who have been helping bring peace to the countryside around Mahmudiya, a town 20 miles (30 km) south of Baghdad. As he leads his troops on patrol through a farming village, Zemp notes that less than six months ago, the area was prime insurgent territory and U.S. patrols routinely came under attack. On this April day, however, children poke their heads out of mud-brick doorways to wave, and two families even invite the troops to join in their modest midday meals. None of this would have been possible,...

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