April 23, 2023

Why Security Assistance Often Fails

The 20th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq has launched a set of reflections and recriminations over the decision to invade and subsequent bungling of the occupation. But another frustration with U.S. policy in Iraq deserves attention, as it has profound implications for U.S. policy today: the United States’ failure to build the Iraqi military. Building a competent Iraqi military was a pillar of the U.S. strategy to establish and maintain security in Iraq, which would enable U.S. forces to exit what was an increasingly unpopular war.

The United States builds better militaries when partner leaders implement the vital policy reforms the United States recommends, and U.S. security assistance fails when U.S. influence fails.

Despite the centrality of the security assistance effort to U.S. foreign policy—the billions of dollars, eight years, and tens of thousands of personnel dedicated to the task—the Iraqi military never developed basic battlefield proficiency, and in the summer of 2014, less than three years after the U.S. withdrawal, the Iraqi Army’s 2nd Division melted away in the face of small numbers of lightly armed Islamic State fighters.

Read the full story and more from Lawfare.

  • Reports
    • June 20, 2024
    Swarms over the Strait

    Executive Summary Drones have transformed battlefields in Libya, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Ukraine, but in a companion report, Evolution Not Revolution: Drone Warfare in Russia’s ...

    By Stacie Pettyjohn, Hannah Dennis & Molly Campbell

  • Commentary
    • Breaking Defense
    • May 29, 2024
    Differentiating Innovation: From Performance Art to Production Scale

    The Department of Defense has an innovation problem, and it’s not the one you are probably thinking about. Certainly, the Department needs to improve its ability to move with ...

    By Andrew Metrick

  • Commentary
    • Foreign Policy
    • May 21, 2024
    The Pentagon Isn’t Buying Enough Ammo

    Even in today’s constrained budget environment, the U.S. Defense Department needs to do more to prioritize munitions buys and prove it has learned the lessons of Ukraine....

    By Stacie Pettyjohn & Hannah Dennis

  • Reports
    • May 10, 2024
    Space to Grow

    Executive Summary In the more than 50 years since the first satellite launch, space has become irrevocably intertwined with the American way of life and the American way of wa...

    By Hannah Dennis

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia