U.S. Forces Help Equip Iraqi Troops
By Seaman William Selby, USN
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 15, 2008 U.S. forces are helping make sure the Iraqi Army will have enough equipment and weapons to defend itself, a senior military official said today.
“We are introducing more military sales to the (Iraqi) minister of defense, and we are making progress,” said Army Col. Stephen K. Scott, director of Army Programs – Foreign Military Sales for Multi-National Security Transition - Iraq, during a conference call from Iraq with online journalist and “bloggers.”
Scott explained that the equipment and weapons that the Iraqis use is very old and inferior to what the U.S. military uses.
“We have 50,000 M-16s on order and they already have 43,000 on hand,” said Scott. He added, “Our goal is to have 165,000 M-16s, one for every Iraqi soldier.”
Scott said the M-16 rifle is far better than the AK-47 currently used by the Iraqi Army because it’s newer and has more features. Rifles, however, are not the only items the Iraqis want replace.
“We have given them armored trucks, support equipment, uniforms and we are in the process of training their Air Force to fly certain aircraft,” said Scott.
Scott attributed the Iraqis cooperation with the changes to a “great relationship with the Ministry of Defense and the new officers in their army.”
“It is very important to their government and ours that they become capable of defending themselves very soon,” Scott said.
The main concern for this program it seems is if we can trust the Iraqi security forces not to sell these products to insurgents.
“I am very confident these weapons will not be lost or overturned to anyone else, they are too proud of them,” Scott said.
“The Minister of Defense himself has taken a keen interest in the accountability of the weapons,” he added.
Scott has been deployed in Baghdad now for two months and said the Iraqis now refer to U.S. soldiers and officials as their brothers.
“I am excited about what the future brings in Iraq and their capability to stand themselves up,” Scott said.
(Seaman William Selby works for the New Media branch of American Forces Information Service.)