Rumsfeld Discusses State of Iraqi Forces in Senate Testimony
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 17, 2005 Training and equipping Iraqi security forces will speed up, and is the cornerstone of coalition policy in the country, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said during testimony before the Senate Armed Service Committee today.
Iraqi security forces "demonstrated considerable valor during the operations to liberate Fallujah, and in providing security for Iraq's successful recent elections," Rumsfeld said.
This is a far cry from the situation in April, when many Iraqi forces melted away in the face of an uprising by Muqtada al-Sadr's militia. Iraqi units fought alongside U.S. Marines and soldiers in Fallujah and provided the two inner rings of security around the more than 5,000 polling places for the country's Jan. 30 election.
State Department officials said 136,342 members of Iraqi security forces are "trained and equipped." With the absorption of the Iraqi National Guard into the Iraqi army Jan. 6, 57,303 servicemembers are under the control of the Defense Ministry. Some 56,589 serve in the army, with 186 in the air force and 528 in the navy.
The Interior Ministry has 57,336 Iraqis in the police, and 21,703 members of other security groups - the border patrol and specialty units - for a total of 79,039.
The total does not count the more than 74,000 people in the Iraqi site protection force. All of this has been accomplished since June, when the Iraqi interim government was formed and coalition trainers arrived.
"Beyond the numbers, it seems to me the capability is what really is important. And capability is a function partly of numbers, to be sure, but it's also of training, equipment, leadership, mobility, sustainability, access to intelligence, experience," Rumsfeld said.
The Iraqi troops coming out of the training pipeline are not going to be ready to handle every threat that comes their way, the secretary said. These troops need experience, and they are getting it under the tutelage of coalition trainers.
And the Iraqis have been gaining experience. "Those who continue to unfairly denigrate Iraqi security forces I think should be reminded that they would not have lost some 1,392 killed-in-action Iraqi security forces since May of '03 if they had been hiding or hunkering down in their barracks," Rumsfeld said. "They've been out doing things."
President Bush's fiscal 2005 supplemental budget request asks for $5.7 billion for training Iraqi security forces.