U.S. Military Continues Efforts to Improve Iraqi Forces
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 17, 2007 Iraqi forces are contributing to stabilizing their country even as they continue to train and improve, a senior U.S. officer involved in training and equipping Iraqi forces said today.
“Even though the Iraqi army and our Army (are) in contact with the enemy here, they continue to train and equip while engaged in the fight. Although fighting continues, so does training at the same time,” Army Col. Al Dochnal, director of current operations for the Coalition Military Assistance Training Team, told online journalists and “bloggers” via teleconference from Baghdad.
“The Iraqi army continues to fight alongside us, and they’re making a difference in the security of their country,” he added.
The Coalition Military Assistance Training Team is responsible for training, equipping, manning and basing Iraqi forces. The team operates under the auspices of Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq.
Eleven basic combat training centers will have churned out more than 107,000 Iraqi soldiers by the end of this year, Dochnal said. The colonel said he believes the training mission will continue to expand “until such a time that we achieve overmatch with the enemy.”
“I’m not sure what that date is on the ground; that’s an operational decision and analysis that’s required. But one thing is for sure: I can tell you … that we’re going to continue to train and continue to improve on the quality of training here in Iraq,” he said.
Coalition trainers also are continuing to work with the Iraqi army to improve the quality of logistics support and noncommissioned-officer development within that force, Dochnal said.
Regional and garrison support units and motor transport regiments are being formed and equipped to serve the same function as traditional support battalions in U.S. military units, and officials have stood up a national supply depot in Taji.
“The naming conventions are a little bit different,” Dochnal said. “We do continue to generate those forces, and we continue to accelerate and expand those.
“But it’s hard work putting in a logistical infrastructure that’s got to be able to respond quickly throughout Iraq,” he added.
Regarding NCO development, Dochnal noted that Iraqi forces under Saddam Hussein’s regime were modeled on the Soviet style, in which NCOs didn’t play a strong role. “There’s not a ready group of noncommissioned officers out there by which to ‘re-green’ and bring back into the process,” he said, “so what you have to do, you have to train them. But you’ve got to grow them within your ranks.”
For example, Iraqi soldiers who “exemplify those attributes that we seek at the noncommissioned officer level” are selected to attend a “corporals course.”
“We’re working very hard at it; the Iraqis are working very hard at it, and it’s paying big dividends here with the army,” Dochnal said.
The colonel also discussed political progress in Anbar province, which was a hotbed of insurgent attacks before local leaders turned their back on al Qaeda terrorists and illegal militias. Local militia members now want to be part of the political process and are being recruited into the Iraqi army, he said.
“You’re seeing those who stood on the fence before and didn’t join the political process now coming back,” Dochnal said, adding that he calls these individuals the “reconcilable” group in Iraq.
“They want to be part of the political process; they want to be part of the building of the nation of Iraq,” he said. “But then on the other side you’ve got the irreconcilables, which (are) those insurgents we continue to have to engage throughout.”
He added that “a majority” of the Anbar population wants to become part of the political and nation-building processes.
Dochnal also took the opportunity of the teleconference to praise U.S. forces working to train Iraqi troops.
“You’ve got a lot of great Americans over here working alongside their Iraqi counterparts to do the right thing with regard to manning, training, equipping and basing the Iraqi army,” he said. “Their efforts and the progress to date is probably unmatched in history when you start looking at some of the numbers.”