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May 8th, 2009

Concerns Mount on Preparedness of Iraq’s Forces

Hobbled by shortages, bureaucracy, corruption

Image: Iraqi soldiers patrol Baghdad street
Iraqi soldiers patrol a street during an operation in Baghdad’s al-Fadhil district in March 2009. (Photo credit: Mohammed Ameen / Reuters file)

By Steven Lee Myers

May 8, 2009


BAGHDAD — Iraq’s security forces, despite significant improvements, remain hobbled by shortages of men and equipment, by bureaucracy, corruption, political interference and security breaches that have resulted in the deaths of dozens of Iraqi and American troops already this year, according to officials from both countries.

The security forces are not on the verge of collapse. American officers who work closely with Iraqi forces emphasize the progress that has been made from the days when the security forces barely functioned, and point to a rising professionalism. Nor are rogue units routinely carrying out sectarian killings, as they were a couple of years ago.

But a recent string of attacks by insurgents has highlighted shortcomings, large and small, despite billions of dollars in American training and equipment, the officials said. …

The attacks have intensified concerns — and political anger here — that Iraq’s Army and police force are not yet ready to provide adequate security as President Barack Obama’s gradual withdrawal of American troops is set to begin. …

Iraq’s security forces have grown to 618,000 soldiers and officers, a 27 percent increase since 2007, and their expanding presence at checkpoints in Baghdad and across the country has coincided with the significant drop in violence since then.

Still, they remain heavily dependent on American support for basic military and police functions, including intelligence, aviation, medical care and logistics, according to the officials and two new reports by the Pentagon [PDF] and the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction [PDF].

At the same time, they face an insurgency that remains potent and may be regrouping, even as government revenues have plummeted with the price of oil, scuttling plans to buy equipment and leaving gaps in personnel, especially with the police. …

Looking ahead to 2010, a study by the military’s own Center for Army Analysis found that the Iraqi security forces would be “incapable of overmatching the threat” against it, according to a footnote in the Pentagon’s most recent quarterly report to Congress, dated March 31 [2009]. …

The challenges facing Iraq’s forces abound.

The Pentagon’s quarterly report in January concluded that as of last October only 17 of 175 Iraqi Army combat battalions could carry out counterinsurgency operations without American support. Only 2 of 34 National Police battalions, Iraq’s paramilitary force, were ready to do so. Updated assessments of Iraqi readiness have since been classified because “military operational readiness for a sovereign nation is considered sensitive.” …

Many of the shortcomings are self-inflicted.

Iraq’s own watchdog, the Commission on Public Integrity, said in a new report that it opened 736 corruption cases last year involving the Ministry of the Interior, which oversees the local and national police. Most involved theft of weapons, ammunition and vehicles that police officers urgently need on the streets. …

The budget crunch and a grindingly slow and arduous training academy have also led to shortages in officers. In the northern city of Mosul, where Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia remains most active, the police face a shortfall of 5,300 officers, including 4,000 who died or went AWOL, an American commander there, Col. Gary Volesky, said last month.

A particularly ominous problem has been a new series of attacks by Iraqi soldiers and policemen, or at least extremists dressed like them, from Mosul to Habbaniya.

These new attacks indicate that purging the ranks of potential threats remains a problem and that even heavily guarded bases can be infiltrated. …

[Ali al-Adeeb, a senior leader in Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s Dawa Party] said that in the haste to build up security forces, Iraq had recruited “suspect individuals whose loyalties are not to the state.”

“They are loyal to their own parties, the Baath Party, Al Qaeda, organized crime rackets or just their own interests,” he said, adding that the problems with security threatened to leave Iraq unprepared to take over as the Americans leave.

“We’ll only be ready if there is a comprehensive cleansing of the security forces,” he said.

American officers are more optimistic.

“When I was here last time we didn’t have Iraqi security forces,” said Maj. Brian K. Wortinger, who served here in 2005 and 2006 and has returned to train the First Brigade of the National Police’s First Division in southeastern Baghdad. “The National Police were Shiite death squads. We were pulling a dozen bodies a day out of the sewage treatment plant.” …


6/11/2014 Sequel

Insurgents Seize Iraqi City of Mosul As Security Forces Flee

Fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) stand guard at a checkpoint in the northern Iraq city of Mosul, June 11, 2014. (Photo credit: Stringer / Reuters)

By Liz Sly and Ahmed Ramadan

June 10, 2014

BEIRUT — Insurgents seized control of most of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Tuesday in a powerful demonstration of the threat posed by a rapidly expanding extremist army to the fragile stability of Iraq and the wider region.

Fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an al-Qaeda offshoot, overran the western bank of the city overnight after U.S.-trained Iraqi soldiers and police officers abandoned their posts, in some instances discarding their uniforms as they sought to escape the advance of the militants.

Tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians also fled the surprise onslaught, which exposed the inadequacies of Iraq’s security forces, risked aggravating the country’s already fraught sectarian divide and enabled the extremists to capture large quantities of weaponry, much of it American. …

As reported by The New York Times



Ex-GI convicted of raping, killing Iraqi girl (AP, May 7, 2009) – A federal jury convicted a former soldier Thursday of raping and fatally shooting a 14-year-old girl after killing her parents and younger sister while he was serving in Iraq. Pfc. Steven Dale Green faces a possible death sentence when the penalty phase of his trial opens Monday … Full story


5/9/2009 Update

Iraqi Relatives Urge Death for U.S. Rape Soldier

May 8, 2009

MAHMUDIYA, Iraq — Relatives of an Iraqi girl who was raped and killed along with her family by a U.S. soldier urged that he be given the death penalty on Friday.

Private 1st Class Steven Green was convicted in a Kentucky court on Thursday of raping Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, 14, and killing her and her family in Mahmudiya, 20 miles south of Baghdad, in 2006. He faces a possible death sentence.

Green, 24, was tried in federal court as a civilian for murder, rape and obstruction of justice charges since he was arrested after he was discharged from the U.S. Army later in 2006 for a “personality disorder.” …

The trial featured prosecution testimony by Green’s former comrades in which they detailed the assault, one of several incidents involving American soldiers that enraged Iraqis.

Green, from Texas, 19 at the time of the crime, was described as the trigger-man in the group of five men, who donned black “ninja” outfits and raped Abeer then shot dead her and her father, mother and 6-year-old sister.

“So they decided this criminal was guilty, but we don’t expect he’ll be executed. Only if he’s executed, will it mean American courts are just,” said relative Yusuf Mohammed Janabi, 51, a teacher. He said he was too upset to talk further and that his heart sank every time he thought of Abeer.

U.S. image harmed

The guilty verdict could go some way towards repairing the strained U.S.-Iraq relations that the crimes caused.

Public anger over cases in which U.S. soldiers have been accused of killing Iraqi civilians has been seen as one reason why Iraqi officials bargained hard for U.S. soldiers to be subject to Iraqi law for crimes committed while off-duty, under a bilateral security pact that took effect in January.

“When American troops came to Iraq, we thought they came to protect Iraqi people, then we saw acts like this,” said Juwad Qadim Hussein, 40, a resident of Mahmudiya, an impoverished farming town with dusty, potholed streets and run down shops.

“Some American troops help Iraqis, giving them medicine and aid; but clearly, others don’t respect and kill Iraqi people.” …

In a separate case, six out of eight Marines charged with the killing of 24 Iraqi civilians at Haditha in 2005 have had their charges dismissed by military judges and another was cleared, to the chagrin of Iraqis who feel justice failed them. The accused ring leader in that case still faces court martial.

Full story


5/21/2009 Update

Ex-GI Spared Death in Iraqi Girl’s Rape, Killing

Image: Steven Green
Former 101st Airborne Division Pfc. Steven Dale Green, being escorted to court in Paducah, Ky., in April 2009, killed an Iraqi man, his wife and young daughter, then the teen-age daughter. (Photo credit: Mark Humphrey / AP file)

May 21, 2009

PADUCAH, Ky. — An ex-soldier convicted of raping and killing an Iraqi teen and murdering her family was spared the death penalty Thursday and will serve a life sentence after jurors couldn’t agree unanimously on a punishment for a brutal crime that the defense blamed partly on combat stress and a lack of military leadership.

After an afternoon of card playing, sex talk and drinking Iraqi whiskey, Pfc. Steven Dale Green, 24, of Midland, Texas, and three other soldiers in March 2006 went to the home of 14-year-old Abeer Qassim al-Janabi near Mahmoudiya, about 20 miles south of Baghdad. Green shot and killed the teen’s mother, father and sister, then became the third soldier to rape the girl before shooting her in the face.

Federal jurors who convicted Green of rape and murder on May 7 told the judge they couldn’t agree on the appropriate sentence after deliberating for more than 10 hours over two days. Their choices were a death sentence or life in prison without parole. Since they could not unanimously agree on either sentence, life in prison had to be the verdict. …


12/20/2010 Update

Ex-Soldier Talks About Slaying of Iraqi Family

Image: Steven Dale Green
Former 101st Airborne Division Pfc. Steven Dale Green is escorted to the courthouse on the third day of his trial in Paducah, Ky., on April 29, 2009. Green, an Iraq War veteran serving five life terms for raping and killing a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and killing her parents and sister says he didn’t think of civilians as humans after being exposed to extreme war zone violence. (Photo credit: Mark Humphrey / AP)

By Brett Barrouquere

December 19, 2010

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — An Iraq War veteran serving five life terms for raping and killing a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and killing her parents and sister says he didn’t think of Iraqi civilians as humans after being exposed to extreme war zone violence.

Steven Dale Green, a former 101st Airborne soldier, told The Associated Press in his first media interview since the 2006 killings, that his crimes were fueled in part by experiences in Iraq’s particularly violent “Triangle of Death” where two of his sergeants were gunned down. He also cited a lack of leadership and help from the Army.

“I was crazy,” Green said in the exclusive telephone interview from federal prison in Tucson, Ariz. “I was just all the way out there. I didn’t think I was going to live.”

In the interview after exchanging correspondence with The Associated Press over the past 15 months, Green talked about what led up to the March 12, 2006, attack on a family near Mahmoudiya, Iraq, that left him serving five consecutive life sentences.

The former soldier, who apologized at sentencing for his crimes, said he wasn’t seeking sympathy nor trying to justify his actions — killings prosecutors described at trial in 2009 as one of the worst crimes of the Iraq war. …

Green is challenging the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, which allows the federal government to charge an American in civilian court for alleged crimes committed overseas. He was the first former soldier convicted under the statute. The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has scheduled arguments Jan. 21 [2011]. …

Full story


2/21/2014 Update

Ex-Soldier Who Killed Iraqi Family Hangs Self

U.S. marshals take former 101st Airborne Division Pfc. Steven Dale Green of Midland, Texas, out the back of the court building after Green got life in prison Thursday May 21, 2009, in Paducah, Ky. Green, who was convicted of raping and killing an Iraqi teen and murdering her family, was spared the death penalty and will serve a life sentence after jurors couldn’t agree unanimously on a punishment. (Photo credit: Daniel R. Patmore / AP)

By Brett Barrouquere

February 19, 2014

LOUISVILLE, Ky. —  A medical examiner said Wednesday that a former soldier hanged himself at a federal prison where he was serving life sentences for raping and killing a teenage Iraqi girl and using a shotgun to slay her family.

Pima County, Ariz., Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Eric Peters said an autopsy completed Tuesday concluded that 28-year-old Steven Dale Green’s cause of death was suicide by hanging. Prison officials found him in his cell Saturday at the federal penitentiary in Tucson.

Green, of Midland, Texas, was a private in the 101st Airborne Division based at Fort Campbell on the Kentucky-Tennessee state line when he deployed to Iraq.

Green and three other soldiers went to the home of an Iraqi family in Mahmoudiya, near a traffic checkpoint in March 2006. At the home, Green shot and killed three members of the al-Janabi family before becoming the third soldier to rape 14-year-old Abeer Qassim al-Janabi before killing her. He was convicted and sentenced in 2009.

Three other soldiers — Jesse Spielman, Paul Cortez and James Barker — are serving lengthy sentences in the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., for their roles in the attack. Each is eligible for parole in 2015.

Green was the first American soldier charged and convicted under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act. Signed in 2000, that law gives the federal government jurisdiction to pursue criminal cases against U.S. citizens and soldiers for acts committed in foreign lands.

Green was discharged from the military in May 2006 after being found to have a personality disorder.

In multiple interviews from prison with The Associated Press, Green frequently expressed regret at taking part in the attack and frustration that he was tried and convicted in the civilian system, which does not afford inmates parole, while the others involved went through the military justice system and have a chance to be released from prison.

“I was made to pay for all the war crimes. I’m the only one here in federal prison,” Green said in an October 2013 interview. “I think they plan to throw away the key in my situation.”

One of Green’s former attorneys, Darren Wolff of Louisville, Ky., said the prospect of spending the next four to five decades in prison with no possibility of getting out while co-conspirators have a chance at parole in the coming years took its toll on the former soldier. Also wearing was the prospect of a transfer to another facility because of a recent altercation with other inmates, he said. …

The attack on the al-Janabi family happened at a particularly violent point in the U.S.-led Iraq war.

Green and his fellow soldiers were stationed for several weeks at a checkpoint in an area known as the “Triangle of Death” when, after an afternoon of card playing, sex talk and drinking Iraqi whiskey, the four soldiers went to the al-Janabi home about 20 miles south of Baghdad.

Green shot and killed the teen’s mother, father and sister, then followed Cortez and Barker in raping the girl before shooting her in the face. Her body was set on fire. Spielman had told AP he didn’t know what the other soldiers had planned and merely stood watch near the front of the house.

Barker and Cortez pleaded guilty and acknowledged taking part in the rape. Spielman went to trial and was convicted because prosecutors said he knew what was planned. A fourth soldier, Bryan Howard, stayed behind at the checkpoint and later pleaded guilty to being an accessory. He served 27 months in Fort Leavenworth.

A federal jury in Paducah spared Green a death sentence in May 2009, but U.S. District Judge Thomas B. Russell ordered Green to serve multiple life sentences. …

Full story


U.S. Military Deaths in Iraq

As of Friday, May 8, 2009, at least 4,285 members of the U.S. military had died in the Iraq war since it began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.


U.S. Troop Casualties in Iraq

Latest identifications:

Army Spc. Jeremiah P. McCleery, 24, Portola, Calif., died May 2, 2009 in Mosul, Iraq, after being shot by enemy forces. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.

Army Spc. Jake R. Velloza, 22, Inverness, Calif., died May 2, 2009 in Mosul, Iraq, after being shot by enemy forces. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.

Army Spc. Shawn D. Sykes, 28, Portsmouth, Va., died May 7, 2009 at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany, of wounds suffered when a propane tank exploded in his face May 5 at Combat Outpost Crazy Horse, Iraq. He was assigned to 215th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.

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Security Developments in Iraq

Following are security developments in Iraq on Friday, May 8, 2009 as reported by Reuters.

MOSUL – A suicide car bomber targeting a police patrol wounded three policemen and one civilian in eastern Mosul, 240 miles north of Baghdad, police said.

DIYALA PROVINCE – Iraqi and U.S forces detained 14 suspected insurgents and found weapons caches during a joint operation in the last four days in Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

Following are security developments in Iraq on Thursday, May 7, 2009 as reported by Reuters.

BAGHDAD – A roadside bomb wounded eight civilians on Wednesday evening in the Doura district of southern Baghdad, police said.

MUSSAYAB – A roadside bomb targeting a government-backed guard unit wounded three people in Mussayab, 40 miles south of Baghdad, police said. Following the incident, the Iraqi army detained 11 suspected insurgents in the area.

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