Iraq Making Strides in Training, Equipping Security Forces
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 4, 2005 The interim Iraqi government has achieved "considerable momentum" in training and equipping the country's police and military forces, the U.S. Army general in charge of training those forces said in Baghdad today.
Iraqi forces have assumed security responsibility for 12 of Iraq's 18 provinces, Lt. Gen. David Petraeus told reporters in the Pentagon via a video link from Iraq. Petraeus is commander of the Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq.
He said Iraq's progress in developing its security forces was vividly on display during this week's elections there. "Democracy was on the march in Iraq on Jan. 30," Petraeus said. "And that march was secured by Iraqi soldiers and police."
Roughly 130,000 Iraqi security personnel were on duty on Election Day. Petraeus said Iraqi forces secured all 5,200 polling places with two rings of security. Throughout the day, several Iraqi forces died preventing "suicide-vest bombers from blowing up large numbers of those standing in line to vote," he said.
The general explained that Iraq has 136,000 trained and equipped security officers within the ministries of Interior and Defense. Some 79,000 Interior Ministry troops include regular police; members of special police commando, public order and police mechanized battalions; border guard units; and "dignitary-protection elements."
Defense Ministry forces number 57,000 and include troops in the regular Iraqi army, intervention force, National Guard, air force, navy and special operations.
Petraeus said it's important to consider the number of operational combat battalions. "Fighting an insurgency puts a premium on units (rather than) individuals," he said, adding that there has been substantial progress in manning operational battalions.
As of today, 90 battalions among the various types of security forces have completed training, and 88 of them are conducting operations. Two army battalions that completed training Feb. 3 will be conducting operational missions within two weeks, he said.
Few of these units are fully equipped and fully manned, but these issues are being solved. Within the next week, more than 3,500 individual replacements will complete their training, bringing the average unit strength to "well over 80 percent," Petraeus said.
Many countries are involved in efforts to improve Iraq's security forces. About 45 U.S. adviser and support teams work with Iraqi army, intervention force, special operations forces, navy and air force units, as well as with certain special police units.
U.S. teams also work with Iraq's basic training and noncommissioned officer training centers and regional and national police academies.
Officials also are making strides in equipping the Iraqi forces. Since July 1, Petraeus' command has issued 79,000 pistols, 60,000 assault rifles, 94,000 sets of body armor, 5,900 vehicles, 20,900 radios, 2,400 heavy machine guns, 54,000 Kevlar helmets, and 79 million rounds of ammunition.
Petraeus said U.S. and Iraqi officials are working to tailor training programs to the situations security forces are likely to face. For instance, police training now includes much more information on developing skills associated with dealing with an insurgency.
"We have worked hard over the past seven months to modify various training programs, operational constructs, and equipment authorizations in response to the situation on the ground," he said.
The general admitted there have been setbacks in training Iraqi forces and that they haven't always performed as hoped. But, he said, officials have been operating under stressful conditions and still have learned from those setbacks and changed programs to deal with them.
"This effort has obviously been carried out in the face of countless challenges and despite barbaric actions by an enemy who recognizes the threat posed by the development of Iraqi forces," Petraeus said.