‘Evolutionary’ Developments Underlie Baghdad Gains
By Tim Kilbride
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 16, 2007 Recent improvements in Baghdad’s security situation are the result of compounding “evolutionary” developments, the U.S. official responsible for training the Iraqi army said today.
“My personal opinion is this is more evolutionary vs. revolutionary in terms of modification of the strategy,” Army Brig. Gen. Terry Wolff told a group of online journalists. Wolff commands the Coalition Military Assistance Training Team under Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq.
“It’s not like “everyone’s walked in anew or woken up in the morning and said, ‘If we just did this, everything will work its way out,’” the general said.
Rather, he said, current promising indications are the result of studious attention to past lessons learned, the maturation of existing efforts, and the expanded implementation of successful techniques.
Wolff pointed to a vastly more effective deployment of Iraqi army soldiers throughout Baghdad now than during a similar security push in the fall, when Iraqi forces failed to arrive in the numbers anticipated.
“What you’re beginning to see now in Baghdad is joint security stations which have Iraqi police, Iraqi military and coalition soldiers all living and working together out in the neighborhoods,” he said, describing the approach as a twist on an ongoing strategy that has benefited from a “reenergized effort” in the past couple months.
He attributed the difference in Iraqi participation to a revised approach designed to reassure Iraqi troops and bypass obstacles to deployability. Working with Iraqi commanders in the aftermath of the fall campaign, he said, U.S. officials asked, “What went right, what went wrong, and what would you fix to make it better next time?”
Together they devised a multi-faceted program to ready the troops for deployment. Steps include: informing Iraqi units well in advance that they will deploy to Baghdad, offering an incentive program, expanding urban combat training, setting a clear schedule for time deployed, and planning for regular leave and stand-down schedules upon their return home.
“That deployability program is paying some dividends,” the general said. “Units are coming down, their strengths have increased.”
Wolff added that similar programs are showing gains in Mosul and in Anbar province.
“There are 10 Iraqi divisions out there. They are all in battlespace. They are all fighting on a day-to-day basis,” he said. “It’s beginning to bear some fruition based on what we’re kind of seeing and hearing about in the streets.”
The general described the ongoing coalition effort to train the Iraqi army as a means of consolidating and building off gains in the security situation.
Wolff said plans are under way to expand the army from 10 to 12 divisions, with additional increases to the size of existing divisions. The various coalition training centers are capable of processing about 7,000 Iraqi cadets per month, he said.
However, key to the Iraqi army’s long-term success, Wolff noted, is the parallel development of a domestic logistics and maintenance capability. Here, too, the Iraqis have demonstrated progress, he said.
Coalition officials have been working with Iraqi commanders, he said, “trying to get them to stand up a support command.” An interim organization is in place, capable of managing key logistical tracking functions, he said, while details of the permanent command are finalized.
Already, a team of 400 Iraqi troops manages the country’s main logistics depot in the city of Taji, Wolff said, working “side by side with their coalition counterparts.” Motor transport regiments assigned to nine of the 10 Iraqi army divisions have already assumed control for distributing most of their units’ equipment and supplies, he said.
Wolff added that development of a maintenance depot at the same site is in its “elementary phases,” expected to hit initial operating capability this summer.
Given the early positive indicators on Iraqi performance, coalition forces continue to invest heavily in the training program. U.S. military advisory teams are receiving stepped-up Arabic language training, and new teams coming out of the United States have been augmented with logistics and personnel specialists.
The partnership is a step in the right direction, Wolff said. He deferred a question on future developments to the U.S. strategy, but predicted it’s more about “maturing the ongoing efforts.”
(Tim Kilbride is assigned to American Forces Information Service.)