U.S. Commander Charts Iraqi Security Forces’ Progress
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 17, 2008 Developing the Iraqi security forces is hard, slow work, the commander of Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq said today.
Army Lt. Gen. James M. Dubik told the House Armed Services Committee today that the Iraqis already have security responsibility for nine of the country’s 18 provinces. Dubik said the Iraqi security forces will assume internal security responsibility for the whole country “sometime between 2009 and 2012.”
He said the Iraqis will assume responsibility for external security “in the 2018, 2020 period.”
There has been success in Iraq, but that success is mixed with challenges, the general said.
In 2007, the Iraqi army grew by 55,000 soldiers. This means 15 more battalions were in the lead at the end of the year than at the beginning of the year. The National Police underwent a total scrub to purge sectarianism, yet still grew by 7,500, and the regular Iraqi police force grew by 45,000.
Dubik attributes growth and improvement in the security forces to the improvement in the overall security situation the surge brought about, the Iraqi people’s rejection of al Qaeda and Shiite extremists, and the desire of the Iraqi government to the right size force to handle challenges in the country.
A lot of work remains to be done, Dubik said. “The Iraqi security force structure and capabilities still lack some maturity,” he said. “The (Iraqi military) has not achieved self-reliance in all of the areas of logistics, maintenance and life support.”
The Interior and Defense ministries have made progress, “but the truth is, right now they cannot fix, supply, arm or fuel themselves completely enough at this point, and this is the major move that we will have for the next few months to change that up,” the general said.
The Iraqis also lack too many combat enablers. “They have fielded more and more battalions, but they lack air support, air mobility, engineer support, indirect-fire support, and other combat enablers,” he said. “Aggressive use of the Foreign Military Sales program is turning that around, but they still must purchase more helicopters, mortars, fixed-wing aircraft, artillery, and (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) assets.”
Developing leaders is also a problem for the new security forces. “The Iraqi security forces have added 1,300 officers and 9,900 NCOs,” Dubik said. “But, while the numbers are up, there is a gap in mid-level leadership positions -- particularly in the NCO and field-grade officer levels. Developing leaders requires not only training, but time.”
Dubik reminded the representatives that the Iraqis are growing an army while the country is at war, while taking casualties and while forming a government. “We should not underestimate the difficulty of growing the security forces,” he said.
The work in developing Iraqi security forces is hard and slow, he said. The Iraqis are proud of the security forces. “They are proud of themselves; they are in the fight; and they are committed to their own success,” the general said.