Officials Seeking New, 'Reliable' Leaders for Iraqi Units
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 30, 2004 Stronger leaders are being sought for Iraqi law enforcement and military units that haven't performed up to expectations, the top U.S. general in the Middle East said today.
"I think the most important lesson that we've learned from this is we must have reliable leadership all the way from the national level down to the level of the lowest privates in these organizations," Army Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. Central Command, said today in Doha, Qatar.
Speaking via a video feed to reporters in the Pentagon, Abizaid acknowledged that some elements of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps and police and army forces "were unable to perform their missions."
These units are now being "reconstituted, retrained and, to a certain extent, re-equipped," he said. DoD has sent Army Maj. Gen. David Petraeus, who had previously commanded the 101st Airborne Division during their combat duty in Operation Iraqi Freedom, to oversee these efforts.
The most critical step will be finding leadership that is "reliable and loyal to the Iraqi government and to the Iraqi people," Abizaid said.
"It's so important that they have a sense of fighting for their own country," the general said of the new Iraqi forces. "And it's so important that we give them the opportunity to be trained and ready to stand up to the inevitable pressure that they will come under as Iraq moves back to full independence and sovereignty."
He also urged people not to discount the important progress forces are making. Abizaid noted that since September, Iraqi forces who have died fighting for their new government outnumber Americans who have died there.
"This is something that should not be lost on any of us," he said. "And while it is difficult for them to stand up to some of the challenges and the intimidation of former regime elements, it is, nevertheless, important for all of us to understand that ultimately the battle for Iraq will be won by Iraqis."