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.”