In the near-century that the United States has been a great power, it has developed some original and sophisticated foreign policy tools. Examples include the Marshall Plan, special forces, and satellite imaging. At the same time, the country's naiveté remains firmly in place. For example, the notion persists that government staff are "particularly qualified to [handle a problem] because they knew nothing about it." (For details, see my analysis at "American Know-Nothing Diplomacy.")
The persistent belief that training and equipping foreign troops imbues them with American political and ethical values, making them allies of the United States, offers another sign of innocence. Some examples of this delusional policy in recent decades:
- Lebanon: On landing U.S. troops in 1982, the priority was to train a national army. Of course, this failed, with most members returning to their communal militias with new arms and training to use against rivals. Despite this failure, the effort was renewed just two weeks ago.
- Afghanistan: Training a national army was an action following the 2001 invasion; but the Afghan Local Police, a militia backed by the government, turned their guns against their international colleagues so often – 34 times in the first eight months of 2012, killing 45 persons – that the training was stopped.
- Mali: The latest disaster, where U.S. efforts to train the woebegone Malian national army to take on Al-Qaeda did not exactly work out. In the words of Der Spiegel, "American specialists did train four crack units, totaling 600 men, to fight the terrorists. But it backfired: Three of the elite units have defected en masse to the rebel Tuareg. Most of the commanders, after all, are Tuaregs. Captain Amadou Sanogo, trained in the United States, was one of the soldiers who didn't defect. Instead, he inflicted even more damage when, last March, he and a few close supporters overthrew the government in Bamako and ousted the elected president."
- Palestinian Authority: A disaster still in the making. The Dayton Mission has trained over 6,000 Palestinian Authority security personnel in the hope that they will become Israel's partners for peace. To the contrary, I have predicted in writing that "these militiamen will eventually turn their guns against Israel."
When will American politicians and military leaders eventually realize that training foreign soldiers does not allies make them? (February 10, 2013)
Libya: Bill Gertz writes in the Washington Free Beacon that the U.S. military "is preparing to conduct military and special operations training for Libya's military and the training will risk including Islamist terrorists among the trainees," according to Adm. William McRaven, the commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command. He spoke at a panel discussion at the Reagan National Defense Forum.
We are going to have to assume some risks. Right now we have the authorities to do that training, and I think as a country we have to say there is probably some risk that some of the people we will be training with do not have the most clean records, but at the end of the day it is the best solution we can find to train them to deal with their own problems. (November 16, 2013)
Georgia: Tarkhan Batirashvili, described by the Wall Street Journal as the Sunni jihadi rebel commander in Syria whom "Assad, Russia and the U.S. all fear," got his start in the in the U.S.-funded Georgian army. (November 19, 2013)
Iraq: In a shocking development, the roughly 2,500 fighters of the rag-tag army of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militia defeated the approximately 78,000 soldiers in the Iraqi armed forces, taking over most of Mosul, population 1.7 million and Iraq's second largest city. Those armed forces had been lovingly and expensively built up over a decade by the U.S. government, which supplied it munificently with arms, now in ISIS hands. The Washington Post explained:
At least some of the soldiers serving on the Sunni side of the city may have been infiltrated by ISIS, explaining why they did not present an effective challenge to the militants, said Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, who monitors jihadist activity for the Middle East Forum. More seriously, however, the Iraqi security forces have consistently failed to win the support of the people they serve, giving them little backing in local communities. "Tactically and militarily, they are ineffectual," Tamimi said. "It's not a lack of manpower. But they haven't built up local support that would enable them to fight."
(June 10, 2014)
Yemen: The Houthi rebels' seizure of most of the capital Sanaa from the central government on Sep. 21 points to another U.S. failure in arming a foreign force, Shoshana Bryen explains:
The successful Houthi power-grab in Yemen this week is important by itself, but it is also an example of what happens when the U.S. attempts to arm and train militaries that are not our own, determines who those militaries will have as enemies, fails to provide "boots" where necessary to control events on the ground, focuses on one enemy/situation to the exclusion of other relevant players, and engages in "reform" of the military's relationship with its government at the same time.
(October 10, 2014)