General Outlines Iraqi Security Forces' Progress
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 7, 2005 Iraq's security forces are in the fight defending their country and are increasingly taking the lead in operations, the U.S. military commander who oversaw Iraqi training for more than a year said here today.
Significant progress has been made in training and equipping Iraqi forces over the last year, and many programs are in place to assist the development of a substantial military institution, said Army Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, former commander of Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq.
"To defeat an insurgency requires more than just individual police," Petraeus said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "As important as they may be, it is units with cohesion, with organization, with a chain of command, with structure and fairly robust combat power that are needed to stand up against something as brutal as the insurgents in Iraq."
In an aim to develop those strong units, the focus in Iraq has shifted from sheer force generation to institutional capability -- ensuring the necessary support elements are in place for combat units to function smoothly, Petraeus said. The U.S. is working with the Iraqi ministries of defense and interior to increase their capability so that soldiers are paid on time, contracts are paid, equipment is purchased in accordance with requirements, and so forth, he explained.
"It was recognized some months back that we can develop all the battalions, brigades, divisions, ground forces and police in the world, but they've got to be supportable and supported by the ministries of defense and interior to ensure eventual self-reliance and transition to complete Iraqi control," Petraeus said.
Twenty-four Iraqi battalions have assumed control of their own area of responsibility, Petraeus said, and a majority of them are fighting at varying levels alongside coalition forces. For an Iraqi unit to be considered fully independent, it would have to not only operate on its own, but also support itself, he said.
"'Fully independent' means just that," he said. "It means they don't need anything whatsoever from the coalition. And again, at the stage of development of some of the support apparatus, that is very, very rare indeed."
One of the more notable forms of support the coalition continues to provide Iraqi forces with is "transition teams," Petraeus said. These are 10-man adviser teams that start with a battalion when it enters training, follow it through advanced training and eventually go into combat with it, he explained.
"Those 10-man teams are real heroes," he said. "Our country should be very, very proud of them. They are with every single battalion, brigade headquarters, division headquarters, ground-forces headquarters, even in the ministries, the joint-forces headquarters and so forth, and they're helping enormously."
Training for Iraqi army and police forces has increased in length and intensity to better prepare troops for the fight, Petraeus said. The Iraqi military already has noncommissioned officer courses for squad leaders and platoon sergeants, he said, and a first sergeant's course and sergeants major academy will soon be added.
A number of specialized courses are now being offered to Iraqi troops, Petraeus said. The army has an engineer school, a military police school, a logistical school, a bomb-disposal school and a medical school, he said. On the police side, there are border academies, a special-police academy, a mechanized-police academy and a highway-patrol academy, he added.
The focus is not just on training and equipping Iraqi forces, Petraeus said. Other critical elements that are needed to build an effective force are competent leadership and a political environment in which training can move forward and Iraqis can feel they are serving a country they're proud of, he said.
U.S. and Iraqi forces must also make goals about what the force structure will look like in the future, Petraeus said.
"It's about knowing what you want to look like down the road that enables you to make the decisions now and guides the processes that can produce what you want 18, 24 months, five years from now," he said.
Progress continues on all fronts of training and building capability of Iraqi security forces, and the ultimate solution will be a combination of several factors, Petraeus said.
"What is the equation for Iraqi self-reliance?" he said. "Well, it's leaders, it's that institutional capability, and it is, of course, continued force generation."