Iraqi Defence Minister Khaled Al-Obeidi has said that the Iraqi military has started rebuilding itself, but caveated the statement by outlining that: “we are still in the early stages”.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi had fired several dozen commanders and told Al-Obeidi to lead a probe into corruption within the Iraqi military after ISIS seized vast swathes of territory from Iraqi security forces last summer.
Al-Abadi said on Sunday that Iraq may need three years to rebuild and restructure its military as the country battles ISIS militants, who pose the biggest threat to its security since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Corruption is widely blamed for the near collapse of the army, which received billions of dollars in support from the United States during the American occupation but has failed to stabilise Iraq.
The PM acknowledged that creating a more effective army could be challenging while he fights ISIS, which seen as far more dangerous than Al-Qaeda, its predecessor in Iraq.
“The most difficult thing is to restructure and build the army while you are in a state of war,” Al-Abadi told Reuters in an interview during a visit to Cairo.
“Our aim is to create a balance between both, restructuring the army in a way that will not impact the fighting,” he added.
“Restructuring the army could take three years,” he said. “This does not mean that the fighting with ISIS will last for three years.”
US military officials say the conflict could last for years and that defeating the group hinges on Iraq’s ability to create a more effective army. “The core issue for us is fighting corruption in the military and civil institutions because this will raise the efficiency of our military troops,” Al-Abadi noted.
He went on to state that: “After taking some simple steps towards restructuring our army, the ability of our troops to control and retake territory improved. We will continue this.”
In less than a month, Al-Abdai pledged that Iraqi government forces will launch an offensive against Islamic State militants in an attempt to retake Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit, 160 km (100 miles) north of Baghdad.
Al-Abadi said he hoped to integrate up to 60,000 Shia militias and armed Sunni groups into the army after the battle against ISIS ends.