Leadership: Recycling Saddam's Commanders


January 20, 2006: The Iraqi Army's November call, for officers who had served in Saddam Hussein's forces, to return to active duty, attracted considerable attention. But in fact, the process of recruiting officers who had served under the former regime had actually begun in a small way in mid-2004. At that time, the government quietly offered most former officers a modest pension or the possibility of reinstatement, following careful vetting for ties to the Baath movement. The number of former officers who took advantage of this offer is not known, but does not appear to have been large. Most of those who did take up the offer seem to have had ties to the country's minorities. Nevertheless, some officers in mid-level and even higher-level command slots in the newly forming Iraqi Army appear to have been among them.

The November offer seems to have had a more favorable response. After checking for ties to the Baath regime or possible war crimes charges, a modest number of former officers were admitted to a "retraining" program that was carefully structured to respect their rank and build on their experience, while exposing them to a more Western way of command and operations. These men have begun to enter service, in their former ranks. Reportedly more than a hundred are now on active duty.


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