BAGHDAD — A company of Iraqi soldiers abandoned their positions on Tuesday night in Sadr City, defying American soldiers who implored them to hold the line against Shiite militias.
The retreat left a crucial stretch of road on the front lines undefended for hours and led to a tense series of exchanges between American soldiers and about 50 Iraqi troops who were fleeing.
Capt. Logan Veath, a company commander in the 25th Infantry Division, pleaded with the Iraqi major who was leading his troops away from the Sadr City fight, urging him to return to the front.
“If you turn around and go back up the street those soldiers will follow you,” Captain Veath said. “If you tuck tail and cowardly run away they will follow up that way, too.”
Captain Veath’s pleas failed, and senior American and Iraqi commanders mounted an urgent effort to regain the lost ground. An elite Iraqi unit was rushed in and with the support of the Americans began to fight its way north.
This episode was a blow to the American effort to push the Iraqis into the lead in the struggle to wrest control of parts of Sadr City from the Mahdi Army militia and what Americans and Iraqis say are Iranian-backed groups.
Yes--those are American troops having to contend with failed Iraqi leadership and failed attempts at building an Iraqi Army and Security Forces apparatus that will stand and fight. Those are American troops put in danger of being attacked or flanked or ambushed because Iraqi troops wouldn't man-up and fight. This is yet another example as to why you can't force people to build their own country. They have to want it for themselves. You cannot hand it to them. Nation building is a failed, broken, discredited idea as it applies to people who don't want the nation built in the first place.
And we're supposed to like having these clowns on our side?