Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 09/2009

Iraqi Security Forces after U.S. Troop Withdrawal: An Iraqi Perspective

Najim Abed Al-Jabouribility

August 2009

Academy of Political Science


U.S. Armed Forces draw down in Iraq, there is increasing concern about the possibility of resurgent ethnic and sectarian tensions. Many Iraqis believe that the United States may be making a grave mistake by not fully using its remaining leverage to insulate the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) from the political influence of the incumbent Iraqi sectarian political parties. U.S. efforts to rebuild the ISF have focused on much needed training and equipment, but have neglected the greatest challenge facing the forces’ ability to maintain security upon U.S. withdrawal: an ISF politicized by ethno-sectarian parties. These ties pose the largest obstacle to the ISF in its quest to become genuinely professional and truly national in character. U.S. leaders may not realize that by not doing more to ensure that incumbent parties stay away from influencing ISF behavior, the United States risks training and arming security forces that will be the instrument for provoking, rather than preventing, future ethno-sectarian conflict. In the end, supporting and strengthening the national character of the ISF is the best hope for a stable and integrated Iraq.