1,000 Iraqis Deserted Basra Battle

Officers and men fled or balked as government battled militias
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 4, 2008 5:00 AM CDT
Mahdi Army fighters drive away with captured Iraqi armored police vehicles outside a state run al-Iraqiya TV facility in Basra, Iraq, Sunday, March 30, 2008.    (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Desertions from Iraqi forces during last week's Basra battles have raised fresh doubts about the effectiveness of the country's US-trained security forces, the New York Times reports. Over 1,000 soldiers and policemen—including dozens of officers—either deserted or refused to fight. The US has linked American troop withdrawals to the readiness of Iraqi forces to take charge.

An American official played down the desertions, saying many were simply fresh recruits not ready for battle and it was not a "major issue." Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki vowed  the government would be tough on deserters. “Joining the army or police is not a trip or a picnic," he said. “They swore on the Koran that they would not support their sect or their party, but they were lying.”