Iraq is a third world country. While this is not a surprising fact to most people, it seems as if this little fact is lost on too many people with access to microphones. It was a third world country before the 1991 Gulf War. It was a third world country before Saddam was removed from power. It will likely remain that way for some time to come. Evolving out of the "third world" category is not a rapid process. It involves much more than merely economics. It also involves, culture, rule of law and widespread education.
I bring this up because I have repeatedly noticed the frustration of other trainers due to their initial expectations of Iraqi Officers and Soldiers. We take so much for granted coming from the USA. I have felt this frustration myself several times. When I do, I have to stop take a breath, and remind myself where I was born. While Saddam spent massive amounts of money on his military forces, he did so using the old Soviet Methodology - all quantity, very low quality. In the USA, we take literacy for granted. Here it is a mark of distinction. A bachelor's degree here carries the same clout as a PhD in the USA. US Officers are required to have a bachelor's and US Colonels have at least a Master's Degree. Here, a high school diploma is the bar over which you must pass to become an officer. In the US Army, it has been the basic requirement to become a soldier. (They don't have GED's here.) The result is that many Iraqi Soldiers are illiterate. Special skill training classes are sometimes hard to fill, not because of a shortage of soldiers or recruits, but because of a shortage of ones that can read and write basic Arabic. I spent some time today showing an Iraqi Lieutenant Colonel how to transfer a file from one computer to another using a flash memory stick and then how to send an e-mail. I have been using e-mail for over 10 years. Teaching staff officers how to do elementary computer work is almost a daily occurrence here. All of this being said, Iraq has one of the most educated populations in the region, so you can easily imagine what it is like in other countries in the middle east.
This educational deficit is going to be one of the big hurdles to overcome in rebuilding this benighted nation. This is why we soldiers consider rebuilding of schools and opening of new ones such a big deal. This is truly a war for the next generation being fought by this generation. We work with what we have for now, and we try to progress every day. It will be slow and gradual. Today must not be compared to yesterday, but better the next decade to this one.