BOSTON (CBS) – Army veterans say the crumbling of Iraq’s security forces in the face of crisis is not all that surprising.
“It doesn’t shock me. The Iraqi Army did that in 2003. They literally dropped their uniforms and went home,” retired Brig. Gen. John Hammond told WBZ-TV on Friday at a luncheon in Boston celebrating the United States Army’s 239th birthday.
Hammond commanded battalions in Iraq after the U.S. invasion. He says our troops faced many challenges in training Iraqi forces, including a low literacy rate, a limited number of translators, and the loyalties to tribal leaders above political leaders.
“What you tried to instill was a sense of responsibility to their citizenry and community,” said Hammond.
For Purple Heart recipient Staff Sgt. William Kleinedler, the undoing of such hard-fought progress is tough to accept when balanced against the human cost to America.
“I want them [Iraqis] to run their own country but I also remember the hundreds and thousands of lives lost because of it,” said Kleinedler.
Kleinedler was severely burned in 2006 when the Humvee he was driving ran over an improvised explosive device. Three fellow military members died in the attack. Prior to his injuries, Kleinedler worked closely with Iraqi people to build the country’s infrastructure.
“A lot of times Iraqi people didn’t want to step up and work, for fear of their lives,” said Kleinedler, adding that a disciplined military is something the United States acquired over hundreds of years.
American troops left Iraq in 2011. This week an insurgency group, known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, has overtaken several key cities with very little resistance from Iraq’s military.
MORE LOCAL NEWS FROM CBS BOSTON