Saturday, January 13, 2007

training iraqi security forces, part two

a chronological dossier of news coverage

summer 2004

NATO leaders agreed Monday to help train Iraq's fledgling security forces, an offer that fell short of President Bush's goal of persuading the alliance to take a major role in helping U.S. troops contain insurgent attacks in Iraq. The leaders of the 26 North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries also approved the temporary expansion of a 6,500-strong alliance peacekeeping operation in Afghanistan by about 3,500 troops. Their mission is to safeguard September elections amid intensifying attacks by Taliban remnants bent on derailing the vote. The alliance leaders said that in addition to helping with training, NATO would consider "as a matter of urgency" other unspecified options "to support the nascent Iraqi security institutions" of interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's government. That government took over from U.S. authorities Monday, two days earlier than planned. The U.S. strategy for withdrawing forces from Iraq hinges largely on the ability of what are largely inexperienced and unreliable Iraqi security forces to bolster the interim government against Islamic militants and followers of former dictator Saddam Hussein. (Jonathan S. Landay, "NATO to help train Iraqi security forces," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, June 29, 2004, Pg. 11A)

In the two weeks since they took back control of their country, Iraqi security forces are showing their mettle. Last week, on the capital's busiest shopping street in Karada, an alert cop spotted a car bomb packed with 1,500 pounds of explosives that could have killed dozens. Farther north, a platoon of Iraqi National Guard killed a pair of suicide bombers and dragged the explosives from the vehicle before they detonated. Hundreds of Iraqi soldiers now patrol the streets, and dozens have been killed or injured in the past week in firefights with insurgents who seem to be training their sights on Iraqi forces. (Thanassis Cambanis. "Iraqi Security Forces Show Early Success," Boston Globe, July 12, 2004, Pg. A1)

France led a clutch of nations yesterday blocking Nato plans to train Iraqi security forces. The 26 Nato allies agreed last month in Istanbul to go ahead with a training programme, but the US and the French remain at odds over the interpretation of the accord. At issue is the extent of any Nato deployment inside Iraq. Despite three meetings yesterday, ambassadors failed to clinch a deal, though there was optimism that a compromise can be found by the weekend. At the Istanbul summit the French President, Jacques Chirac, said the alliance could offer support to individual nations which want to train Iraqi troops but that "a Nato presence in Iraq" was out of the question. Germany and Belgium are also unenthusiastic about an alliance mission inside the country although they will not stand in the way of the majority. The US has raised the temperature by pushing hard for an early decision and an ambitious programme of Nato involvement. "It is not just the French that have concerns," said one Nato official, "The US is taking a fairly hardline position." (Stephen Castle, "NATO Scheme to Train Iraqi Security Forces is Blocked," The Independent (London), July 29, 2004, Pg. 27)

fall 2004

Three months into its new mission, the military command in charge of training and equipping Iraqi security forces has fewer than half of its permanent headquarters personnel in place, despite having one of the highest-priority roles in Iraq. Only about 230 of the nearly 600 military personnel required by the headquarters, from lawyers to procurement experts, have been assigned jobs with the group, the Multinational Security Transition Command, military officials in Washington and Iraq said. One officer said the military's Joint Staff had given the armed services until Oct. 15 to fill the remaining jobs, but other officials said those people might not actually be in place until weeks later. ("Eric Schmitt, "Effort to Train New Iraqi Army is Facing Delays," New York Times, September 20, 2004, Pg. A1)

So much progress is being made in training and equipping Iraqi security forces that U.S. commanders believe that the majority of the country will be under local control by the end of this year, a senior Pentagon official said yesterday. Army Lt. Gen. Walter Sharp, speaking to reporters at the Pentagon, also disputed the accuracy of some of Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry's new criticisms of the pace of training for Iraqi police. Sharp, the head of strategic plans and policy for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Pentagon officials are closely monitoring the training and equipping of Iraqi police and military forces, with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld being briefed weekly on the subject. Sharp said that Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top U.S. commander in Iraq, has reviewed the training schedule for Iraqi forces, and also the planned delivery of equipment for them. "He believes that based upon that . . . he will be able to be at . . . 'local control' for the majority of the country . . . by the end of December," Sharp said. That control is not just a matter of having Iraqi security forces in place but also an assessment of the ability of local political leaders to govern and to oversee economic reconstruction efforts, he added. (Thomas E. Ricks, "General Defends Pace of Iraqi Training; Local Control Seen By End of the Year," The Washington Post, September 21, 2004, Pg. A17)

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization agreed Wednesday to expand the training of Iraqi security force officers at a facility outside Baghdad in preparation for planned elections in January. The compromise agreement, overcoming resistance from Germany and France, will expand NATO's training mission in Iraq from about 50 officers to as many as 300 personnel, the alliance said. The accord, announced at NATO headquarters in Brussels, was reached after weeks of debate and opposition from members who have opposed the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq. (Keith B. Richburg, "NATO to Dispatch Additional Military Trainers to Iraq," The Washington Post, September 23, 2004 Pg. A21)

The strategy President Bush took into last night's presidential debate was one that he has honed on the campaign trail throughout the spring and summer: projecting steadfast optimism about the war in Iraq and repeatedly maintaining that "progress" is being made. The president made several brief mentions of the toll the war has taken on the nation, but Bush's main thrust of the evening was his contention that his decisions have made the country safer on balance. He touted US-led training of Iraqi security forces and repeated his guarantee that elections will take place in January. Asked about any "miscalculations" he made in planning for the war, Bush allowed only that he wasn't prepared for "such a rapid victory." ("Bush Maintains Optomistic Stance on Iraq Effort," The Boston Globe, October 1, 2004, Pg. A21)

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other NATO defense ministers will meet in this small mountain resort on Wednesday to discuss increased training and contributions toward strengthening Iraqi security forces. U.S. officials said they hope to persuade NATO members to accelerate the staffing of an Iraqi training center outside Baghdad and to provide more equipment to the operation. While NATO approved the expansion of the facility and agreed to send about 300 personnel to train senior Iraqi military officers as part of an effort to protect upcoming elections, the issue has been controversial. France, Germany, Belgium and Spain opposed training soldiers in Iraq, citing security concerns and refusing to contribute forces. There were also worries that nations contributing NATO troops could become targets of violence. (Josh White, "Rumsfeld To Appeal For NATO Aid in Iraq," The Washington Post, October 13, 2004 Pg. A14)

In a diplomatic victory for the United States, NATO officials agreed yesterday to send hundreds of military advisers to Iraq this year to train local security forces as part of a new task force that could eventually grow to 3,000 personnel. Trainers from France, Germany, and other nations that bitterly opposed the US-led invasion are expected to join the effort. At a meeting in Romania, the alliance which now has about 50 advisers in Iraq accepted US and Iraqi pleas to help speed up the training of Iraqi security forces in advance of Iraqi elections planned for January. More than 300 trainers will begin staffing a new training academy outside Baghdad in the coming months, officials said. They said initial personnel from Denmark and Norway, which both opposed the war, could start to arrive by the end of November. (Bryan Bender, "NATO Agrees to Send Advisers to Iraq," The Boston Globe, October 14, 2004, Pg. A1)

U.S.-trained Iraqi troops, faulted for ineffective fighting in previous clashes with insurgents, made a "generally pretty good" showing in the Fallujah offensive, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Tuesday. Increasing the number and improving the ability of Iraqi security forces - soldiers, police and border guards - are essential to an American strategy for withdrawing from Iraq. ("Rumsfeld: Iraqi performance "pretty good'," St. Petersburg Times, November 24, 2004, Pg. 2A)

winter 2004-2005

Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, the commander of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf region, raised the possibility Monday that U.S. forces in Iraq could start to be reshaped as early as next year to reduce the number of combat troops and concentrate on the development of Iraqi security forces. Abizaid declined in an interview to set a timetable for the shift, saying it would depend on the outcome of national elections in January and evidence that Iraqi forces could assume a greater share of combat operations against the country's entrenched insurgency. Other senior U.S. officers who elaborated on the plan said the change would not necessarily lead initially to an overall decrease in the number of U.S. troops in Iraq but could eventually facilitate a lower troop level. This outlook comes in the face of a series of brazen attacks by insurgents intent on disrupting the elections and terrorizing Iraq's fledgling security services. The violence, together with a campaign of intimidation aimed at those associated with the new governing structures or with the Americans, has deepened perceptions of insecurity, particularly in areas heavily populated by Sunni Arabs. It also contributed to a Pentagon decision last week to boost the U.S. force in Iraq to 150,000 troops. (Bradley Graham, "Commander Sees Shift In Role of U.S. Troops; Force Would Focus On Training Iraqis," The Washington Post, December 7, 2004 Pg. A01)

President George Bush yesterday acknowledged that replacing US troops with Iraqi soldiers had been hampered by the lacklustre performance of Iraqi units, including instances in which they have fled rather than fight. Mr Bush's less-than-glowing assessment of American-trained Iraqi troops contrasted with his previous evaluations, which stressed progress toward the goal of training a 200,000-strong Iraqi security force by the end of next year. He has said repeatedly that any hope for a US withdrawal hinges on the ability of Iraqi troops to take over. "There have been some cases where, when the heat got on, they left the battlefield. That's unacceptable," Mr Bush said. "Iraq will never fully secure itself if they have troops that, when they heat gets on, leave the battlefield." (Phillip Coorey, "Bush admits Iraq troops not quite up to the job," Herald Sun (Melbourne, Australia), December 22, 2004 Pg. 47)

The Pentagon is sending a retired four-star Army general to Iraq next week to conduct an unusual ''open-ended'' review of the military's entire Iraq policy, including troop levels, training programs for Iraqi security forces and the strategy for fighting the insurgency, senior Defense Department officials said Thursday. The extraordinary leeway given to the highly regarded officer, Gen. Gary E. Luck, a former head of American forces in South Korea and currently a senior adviser to the military's Joint Forces Command, underscores the deep concern by senior Pentagon officials and top American commanders over the direction that the operation in Iraq is taking, and its broad ramifications for the military, said some members of Congress and military analysts. (Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker, "Rumsfeld Seeks Broad Review Of Iraq Policy," The New York Times, January 7, 2005 Pg. A1)

The State Department's quarterly report to Congress paints a bleak picture of Iraqi security forces in the run-up to this month's election, and Bush administration officials and specialists now acknowledge it could take years to prepare viable police and military units unless the current training program improves dramatically. In some of the most violent areas of the country, Iraqi forces have been "rendered ineffective," the State Department wrote in the report dated Jan. 5. Due to intimidation and attacks by insurgents, "large numbers" of police, highway patrol, and border enforcement personnel "have quit or abandoned their stations," it said. And many units are still waiting for key equipment such as rifles and ammunition, the report said. President Bush yesterday acknowledged that the training of Iraqi forces considered the linchpin to an eventual American withdrawal is a major challenge. He said an assessment team, headed by a retired general, will go to Iraq next week to review the training and recommend ways to ensure they can more quickly take on a greater role battling insurgents. (Bryan Bender, "Report Paints a Bleak Picture of Iraqi Forces," The Boston Globe, January 8, 2005, Pg. A1)

The American military's main mission in Iraq after the Jan. 30 elections will be to train Iraqi military and police forces to take over security duties, a task that could involve assigning thousands of additional Army advisers to Iraqi units, says the general who will take over next month as American ground commander in Iraq. The officer, Lt. Gen. John R. Vines, commander of the XVIII Airborne Corps, said that battling insurgents and reducing the violence would still be high priorities, but that the No.1 job after the elections would be to improve the training of Iraqi security forces, whose performance is the linchpin of America's strategy for withdrawing from Iraq. To do that, General Vines said, as many as 10,000 American military advisers could be assigned to work directly with Iraqi units to hone the leadership skills and confidence of newly trained Iraqi officers. He said he could not give precise figures until he had assessed the situation first hand. At present, a few thousand American advisers are assigned to Iraqi units. "The most desired course of action is that there be rapid progress in training and preparing Iraqis to assume responsibility for security in every province," said General Vines, 55, an Alabaman who served with Special Operations Forces in Somalia and commanded an airborne-assault battalion in the Panama invasion. From President Bush down, senior American policy makers and commanders have emphasized the need to correct the training of Iraqi security forces, particularly after the disappointing performances of many Iraqi units last year. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld sent a retired four-star general, Gary E. Luck, to Iraq this week to review military operations and the Iraqi training program. (Eric Schmitt, "New U.S. Commander Sees Shift in Military Role in Iraq," The New York Times, January 16, 2005, Pg. 10)

Condoleezza Rice, President Bush's nominee for secretary of state, refused Tuesday to set any timetable for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, but declared that the United States was making "some progress" in training Iraqi security forces. Under persistent bipartisan questioning at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Ms. Rice also declared that beyond strengthening Iraq's fledgling police and military, the most urgent task facing Iraqis after the elections was to overcome differences among Sunni Arabs, Shiites, Kurds and others by seeking political reconciliation among themselves. "The Iraqis lack certain capacities, and if we focus in this next period after the election on helping them to build those capacities beyond where they are now, I think we will have done a major part toward the day when less coalition help is needed," she said. (Steven R. Weisman and Joel Brinkley, "Rice Sees Iraq Training Progress But Offers No Schedule for Exit," The New York Times, January 19, 2005, Pg. A1)

George W. Bush, seeking to build on the momentum of last weekend's election in Iraq, unveiled a second-term agenda last night by telling Americans "a new phase" had begun in the 22-month U.S. occupation. The U.S. president used his annual State of the Union address to Congress last night to pitch a series of domestic initiatives to skeptical lawmakers, most notably a bold overhaul of the 70-year-old Social Security system. He also told them that the 150,000 U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq would begin to turn away from fighting an insurgency and would increasingly focus on training Iraqi security forces. (Tim Harper, "Iraq war in new phase: Bush," The Toronto Star, February 3, 2005, Pg. A10)

During Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's confirmation, much was made of the dueling numbers she and I advanced regarding Iraq's security forces. Rice said there are about 125,000 trained Iraqi security forces. I maintained that the real number was between 4,000 and 18,000. What explains the discrepancy? By one measure the Bush administration is right: As of today, there are about 136,000 "trained and equipped" Iraqis. But that measure is meaningless. Indeed, a year ago, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld boasted of 210,000 Iraqis in uniform and called it "an amazing accomplishment." We should focus on real standards, not raw numbers. The real standard is straightforward: Can an Iraqi soldier or policeman do what we ask American soldiers to do -- provide law and order, protect the infrastructure, defend the borders and, above all, defeat the insurgency? There are nowhere near 136,000 Iraqis capable of accomplishing these goals. (Joseph R. Biden Jr., "Training Iraqis: the Facts," The Washington Post, February 6, 2005, Pg. B07)

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld lobbied European allies on Wednesday for more help in training Iraqi security forces, and the secretary general of NATO suggested that more aid would be forthcoming soon. Before flying to Luxembourg to meet European Union officials, Ms. Rice said she was increasingly confident that all 26 countries in the military alliance would commit to some form of training for Iraqis before President Bush visits Brussels on Feb. 22. Mr. Rumsfeld, in Nice, France, to meet NATO defense ministers, said the administration would seek to capitalize on the perceived success of the Iraqi elections to encourage reluctant European allies to help do the training. (Steven R. Weisman and Eric Schmitt, "Rice Hopeful of Getting More NATO Help to Train Iraqis," The New York Times, February 10, 2005 Pg. A6)

U.S. President George W. Bush's mission to charm his allies paid off yesterday when all NATO nations, including Canada, committed troops and money to Iraq, a conflict that had divided the military alliance. Canada's offer of up to 30 military trainers and $1 million to help pay for training Iraqi security forces was well-received, said Prime Minister Paul Martin, who praised Bush for helping thaw relations with European nations. "I think President Bush's trip here really did go a long way towards healing any hard feelings that might have existed," Martin said following the summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. (Bruce Campion-Smith, "NATO chips in to train Iraqis," The Toronto Star, February 23, 2005, Pg. A10)

spring 2005

Over the past 18 months, Washington's estimate of the number of trained Iraqi security forces has gyrated up and down as if it were a stock market index. Last spring, for instance, the Defense Department's number for Iraqi police and military personnel plunged from 206,000 to 132,000. In September, the number was revised downward again - to 90,000. Critics complain that the variation in this number reflects the fact that the White House has no exit strategy for the Iraqi intervention, and is simply groping ahead, blind. But the Pentagon defends its training effort, and some outside analysts say that after a slow and troubled start the US may now be making progress in its bid to build an entire nation's means of security from scratch. That step is essential to stabilizing Iraq and bringing US forces home, which commanders now say could begin next year. (Peter Grier, "Iraqi troop training: signs of progress," Christian Science Monitor, March 29, 2005, Pg. 01)

Two years after the fall of Saddam Hussein, the American-led military campaign in Iraq is making enough progress in fighting insurgents and training Iraqi security forces to allow the Pentagon to plan for significant troop reductions by early next year, senior commanders and Pentagon officials say. Senior American officers are wary of declaring success too soon against an insurgency they say still has perhaps 12,000 to 20,000 hard-core fighters, plentiful financing and the ability to change tactics quickly to carry out deadly attacks. But there is a consensus emerging among these top officers and other senior defense officials about several positive developing trends, although each carries a cautionary note. (Eric Schmitt, U.S. Commanders See Possible Cut in Troops in Iraq," The New York Times, April 11, 2005, Pg. A1)

summer 2005

Iraqi security forces are not yet ready to defend their country on their own against a stubborn insurgency, but most of the nation's army battalions are able to fight with help from U.S. and coalition forces, according to a Pentagon assessment of progress in Iraq released yesterday. The 23-page report was presented to Congress as a detailed review of where the war in Iraq stands, and much of the document argued that economic, political and security indicators are heading in the right direction. It cautioned that the insurgency remains "capable, adaptable, and intent on carrying out attacks," and senior defense officials again would not place a timetable on the withdrawal of a significant number of U.S. troops. "Success will be achieved when there is a free Iraq in which Iraqis themselves are the guarantors of their own liberty and security," the unclassified section of the report said. "We have consistently made it clear that the criteria for withdrawing coalition forces from Iraq are conditions-based, not calendar-based." (Josh White, "Pentagon Report Says Iraqi Forces Are Not Yet Able to Defend Country," The Washington Post, July 22, 2005, Pg. A16)

The Pentagon announced Friday that Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, who has been in charge of efforts to train Iraqi security forces, has completed his yearlong tour of duty and will become commander of the Army Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. [...] It has been a daunting and complicated task. A newly declassified Pentagon assessment released to Congress said only "a small number" of Iraqi security forces can fight insurgents without American assistance, although about a third of the Iraqi Army is capable of "planning, executing and sustaining counterinsurgency operations" with support. About half of Iraq's new police battalions are still being established, the assessment said, and the rest of the police units and two-thirds of the new army battalions are only "partially capable" of carrying out counterinsurgency missions, and then only with American help. (Thom Shankar, "Army Commander in Charge of Training Iraqi Security Gets New Post," The New York Times, July 23, 2005, Pg. A5)

The U.S. military is planning a major redeployment of its forces in Iraq in hopes of sharply reducing the number of American troops there within the next year, a goal confirmed Wednesday by a top commander in Baghdad. "I do believe that if the political process continues to go positively, if the developments with the (Iraqi) security forces continue to go as it is going, I do believe we will still be able to make fairly substantial reductions after these elections - in the spring and summer of next year," Gen. George Casey told reporters in Baghdad. Casey, the commander of all U.S. troops in Iraq, did not talk specifically about how the Pentagon planned to make the reductions, or how dramatically the force could be reduced. But top military commanders have told the Houston Chronicle in recent weeks that, under the best-case scenario, U.S. troop levels could drop from 138,000 to between 75,000 and 90,000. (Michael Hedges, "Timing of cuts in Iraq outlined; General says some U.S. troops could head home by next spring," The Houston Chronicle, July 28, 2005, Pg. 1)

to be continued...

[part one | part three]

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