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Pace: Building Support Capacity, Ministries Important in Iraq

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 29, 2006 – Though training Iraq's warfighters and front-line security forces will remain the top priority, training the cooks, clerks and medics who allow the forces to operate against the enemy is an important part of the equation, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said this week.

During a trip to Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, Marine Gen. Peter Pace spoke about establishing the institutions to run Iraq's military.

"Priority No. 1 is always going to be training the trigger pullers," Pace said to reporters traveling with him March 26. "Priority No. 2 is training those who support the trigger pullers, and that's coming."

Logistics is key to ensuring the Iraqi forces can be self-sustaining. This means developing not only the units, but also the acquisition processes for supplies and the expertise to know what to buy and when to buy it. It also requires a system to get beans and bullets to the warfighters when they are needed.

The trigger pullers will control territory, Pace said. Coalition forces have been working to develop the logistics arm of the Iraqi military. "The train-up of those folks should be done by the end of the year," the chairman said. "We have already begun (setting up) the truck companies and mechanics. (We're training) all the guys and gals that turn the wrenches and sustain the force in a way that they can sustain themselves in the field."

But setting up institutions goes beyond training soldiers to do their military jobs - it means setting up and mentoring the security forces ministries. The Iraqi government must have defense and interior ministries "that have the capacity to make decisions, follow through on those decisions, allocate resources and do things that the sovereign government needs to do to lead and marshal resources," Pace said. "That's another reason why the stand-up of the government right now is so important. Because who they pick to be prime minister, the minister of defense and the minister of the interior will have a significant impact on the ability of those institutions to function properly."

Roughly 70 coalition soldiers and civilians are in each ministry, working as partners with their Iraqi counterparts, officials in Baghdad said. They work to build a finance section, a personnel command, a training and doctrine command and so on. The coalition partners are working to ensure the new ministers will be able to choose options when they finally take office.

Progress in fielding Iraqi soldiers in fighting battalions has gone well, senior military officials in Baghdad said. The Iraqi army now has 111,000 soldiers configured in more than 100 battalions, 30 brigades and eight divisions.

The generation of these troops and their units is proceeding apace, officials said. Iraqi trainers are the platform instructors in most of the schools, while coalition soldiers mostly serve as mentors. The Iraqi military also is making process in training officers for the military. The Rustamiyah military academy recently graduated 78 new second lieutenants.

All this points to the progress in building military institutions, officials said. Recruiting and training officers is not a one-time deal, they explained. The officers must be trained according to a plan and a military doctrine. Formulating the doctrine and writing the plan require institutions to have been put in place.

And the Iraqi politicians are now on a timeline; the clock starting ticking when the parliament met March 16. The politicians had 60 days to seat the new government.

Officials in Baghdad said they expect progress in setting up institutions in the military to accelerate with a four-year government in place.

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Gen. Peter Pace, USMC

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