Submitted by Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
In one example of the difficulties in rousing the Iraq military to fully commit to engaging the Islamic State within Iraq, a Kurdish news source reports that soldiers are taking to bribery to escape their military responsibilities and returning home to avoid combat.
In some cases the bribes are so prevalent that up to half of military detachment soldiers are reported to have been released, making the army’s war efforts difficult and especially magnified in confronting terrorists waging war against their nation. Fear of war and the atrocities of their enemy is the primary motivating factor.
In a confidential meeting held earlier in week, hosted by Iraq’s Parliamentary committee on security and defense, a confidential source revealed:
“Participants in the meeting discussed the number of different sieges of the Iraqi army in the Anbar area and how many soldiers were being killed by members of the terrorist organization, the Islamic State.”
“Also discussed was the fact that there had been an increase in the number of Iraqi soldiers who were leaving areas where they could expect to see action – such as the provinces Anbar, Salahaddin and Diyala. This means that there are fewer than expected soldiers on the battlefields.”
Locals refer the deserters as “Astronauts” as they are said to float around not participating, eventually returning to their home world. The phenomenon is not new to the Iraq Army and often takes the form of the soldier offering their superior officer large amounts of cash such as partial or full salaries to not be reported for desertion, according to one officer, Kadhim al-Shammari.
Abbas al-Saadi was a soldier of a unit fighting the Islamic State in Tikrit but now has returned home to his employ as a taxi driver.
“If I was killed, who would look after my wife and three children? I love the military but I am worried about the IS group. They not only kill soldiers in battle, they behead them and burn them. That’s why I decided to give all of my salary to the officer in charge of our unit so that he would register me absent with leave.
According to the parliamentary committee the numbers include Astronaut Soldiers who escaped upon the advance of the Islamic State and did not return. Iraqi units comprising five hundred soldiers now have to contend with three hundred.
Though the army imposes strict penalties against deserters, military law has proven to be ignored.
Member of Parliament Mathhar al-Janabi stated:
“Our security forces have a big problem when it comes to non-enforcement of military law. This makes members of the military unafraid of doing illegal things – such as being absent without leave, illegal killing and otherwise not carrying out their military duties.”
The remaining soldiers themselves experience difficulty in reporting desertions of the astronaut soldiers and the only available resource to receive their complaints is often the officers who took the bribes to begin with.
While the situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate, the corruption endemic within the Iraq Army is a contributing factor to the advancement of the Islamic State and makes the international effort to eject IS more difficult. The result possibly could lead to more international commitment due to necessity of prosecuting the war with reliable resources, a bad precedent to set as the west continues to be drawn in.
By Darren Smith
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