Wednesday, January 17, 2007

training iraqi security forces, part three

a chronological dossier of news coverage

fall-winter 2005

It will take up to two years for the Iraqi army to have the military leadership and supplies it needs to operate on its own, the commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad said yesterday. Maj. Gen. William Webster Jr. told Pentagon reporters that the Iraqi security forces are continuing to grow but their major need is for support systems such as fuel and replacement parts. "If we're talking about an army that can pick up and move and go out to the borders to defend the country and be able to sustain operations out in the open for a long period of time, it's probably going to be a year and a half, two years before that system is mature enough to operate on its own," Webster said from Baghdad. Earlier this year, U.S. military officials said they thought they could begin fairly substantial troop withdrawals next spring. But amid ongoing questions about the Iraqi army's training, they have since scaled back that prediction. ("Iraq digest; Iraqi army may not be ready for 2 years, The Seattle Times, October 22, 2005, Pg. A13)

Six months after American soldiers began training Iraq's budding army, Georgia National Guard trainers say the new force still lacks the equipment, leadership and discipline necessary to effectively combat a raging insurgency. The Bush administration has repeatedly pledged to begin drawing down American troops as Iraqi security forces become self-sufficient. But there is little indication that will occur anytime soon in this Sunni-dominated region known as the Triangle of Death. American advisers say the Iraqis are still outgunned by the insurgents, have problems getting even basic equipment from their defense ministry and frequently go months without being paid. The Iraqis complain about the same things. Some lack the trust of their American trainers, who refuse to brief them about upcoming missions for fear they will tip off insurgents. "It has been the most frustrating thing I have ever done, but when something successful happens you bounce off the walls," said Lt. Col. Ben Sartain, 42, of Cleveland, Ga., who led the training by the 48th Brigade Combat Team in this area south of Baghdad. "If we could get them self-supporting, they would be able to take over their own battle space, which is the key to getting us out of here." (Jeremy Redmon, "Struggles to train Iraqis stymie 48th," The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, November 4, 2005, Pg. 1A)

President Bush laid out his administration's vision yesterday for winning the war in Iraq, acknowledging that the U.S. military has suffered "setbacks" but asserting that it is making unmistakable progress in training Iraqi security forces -- a mission he vowed will not be cut short by political pressures on the homefront. "As the Iraqi forces gain experience and the political process advances, we will be able to decrease our troop levels in Iraq without losing our capability to defeat the terrorists," Bush told an audience of midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. "These decisions about troop levels will be driven by the conditions on the ground in Iraq and the good judgment of our commanders -- not by artificial timetables set by politicians in Washington." While Bush appealed for patience, the House minority leader announced hers was at an end. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) became the first congressional leader to endorse a call to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, following the path laid out two weeks ago by Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.). (Michael A. Fletcher, "Bush Presents Plan to Win Iraq War; Pelosi Says More Democrats Backing Call to Bring U.S. Troops Home Now," The Washington Post, December 1, 2005, Pg. A01)

The American commander overseeing the building of Iraq's security forces asserted Friday that many units had made impressive strides in the past year, but he acknowledged that the training of the Iraqi police was complicated by the armed militias still claiming the loyalties of many officers. Speaking from Baghdad to reporters in Washington via videoconference and monitored here, Lt. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said that the Iraqi Army would reach its goal of 160,000 troops by the end of 2006 and that a 135,000-member police force would be ready by the end of 2007. At present, about 75,000 police officers are trained and equipped, the general said. The armed forces currently number about 100,000. (Dexter Filkins, "General Says Militias Split Loyalties of Iraqi Security Forces," The New York Times, December 3, 2005, Pg. A12)

spring 2006

As the threat of full-scale sectarian strife looms, the American military is scrambling to try to weed out ethnic or religious partisans from the Iraqi security forces. The United States faces the possibility that it has been arming one side in a prospective civil war. Early on, Americans ceded operational control of the police to the Iraqi government. Now, the police forces are overseen at the highest levels by religious Shiite parties with militias, and reports of uniformed death squads have risen sharply in the past year. The American military is trying an array of possible solutions, including quotas to increase the number of Sunni Arab recruits in police academies, firing Shiite police commanders who appear to tolerate militias, and sending 200 training teams composed of military police officers or former civilian police officers to Iraqi stations, even in remote and risky locations. (Edward Wong, "U.S. Is Seeking Better Balance In Iraqi Police," The New York Times, March 7, 2006, Pg. A1)

The United States commander for training Iraqi security forces expressed guarded satisfaction on Friday with the performance of new Iraqi Army and national police units in tamping down the sectarian violence that erupted after the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra last month. But the commander, Lt. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, acknowledged that the crisis also provided a clearer picture of the troubling shortfalls of the Iraqi local police, on whom, he said, American trainers now must focus their efforts. (Thom Shanker, "General Praises Iraqi Forces In Mosque Attack Mayhem," The New York Times, March 25, 2006, Pg. A7)

The Pentagon yesterday said it had made progress training Iraqi security forces, on the same day that 1,500 US troops stationed in Kuwait were transferred to Anbar, a province in western Iraq, to boost security there. The Pentagon's quarterly report to Congress on Iraq said Anbar remained one of the most dangerous regions of the country alongside Baghdad, Salah ad Din, and Diyala. It said Anbar had the highest number of daily attacks per capita over the past three months. Lieutenant General Gene Renuart, director for strategic plans and policy on the JointStaff, said the situation inAnbar was still a "challenge". The Pentagon said the number of Iraqi soldiers and police who had completed their training had risen to 263,400, an increase of 36,100 from three months ago. It said the Iraqi ministries of defence and interior were on track to complete initial training targets by the end of this year. (Demetri Sevastopulo, "Pentagon reports good progress on training of Iraqi security forces," Financial Times, May 31, 2006, Pg. 4)

summer 2006

U.S. military commanders expect to meet their goal of training and equipping more than 325,000 members of the new Iraqi security forces by the end of this year, an important step in developing Iraq's self-defense, Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey, who leads the training effort, said yesterday. Top officials remain optimistic that they will meet targets that call for training 137,000 troops for the Iraqi military and 188,000 people for Interior ministry units such as local police and the border patrol. But they warned that there is a long way to go before the Iraqis will be able to independently fight the insurgents. "It's just not appropriate yet to be thinking in terms of independent anything in Iraq," Dempsey said. "This, remember, is a nation at war, and although they have taken responsibility for battle space, and large swaths of it . . . they are not independent at this point in time." (Josh White, "U.S. Military Expects to Meet Training Goal for Iraqi Security Forces," The Washington Post, June 28, 2006, Pg. A20)

Despite the addition of almost 100,000 U.S.-trained Iraqi troops in the past year, American efforts to pacify central Iraq and the capital appear to be failing, challenging a central tenet of U.S. strategy that training more Iraqi security forces will allow U.S. troops to start going home. The number of trained Iraqi soldiers and police grew from an estimated 168,670 in June 2005 to about 264,600 this June. Yet Baghdad's morgue is receiving nearly twice as many bodies each day as it did last year. "Even as the number and capabilities of Iraqi security forces have increased, overall security conditions have deteriorated," concluded a report that the Government Accountability Office submitted to Congress earlier this month. (Tom Lasseter, "More U.S.-trained Iraqi troops have yet to increase security," Star Tribune (Minneapolis), July 20, 2006, Pg. 13A)

In a major shift of strategy, American combat troops will be redeployed from outlying Iraqi towns and cities into Baghdad in a bid to end the vicious sectarian violence that has claimed thousands of civilian lives in the Iraqi capital, President Bush announced yesterday. For almost three years, since U.S.-led forces overthrew Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein, the United States had pursued a strategy of training and equipping Iraqi security forces to replace American troops. "As they stand up, we will stand down," Bush has said repeatedly. But while about 240,000 Iraqis are on duty, the security forces have been unable to quell the rising sectarian violence, particularly in Baghdad. (David Wood, "U.S. shifts forces to Baghdad; Soldiers from other areas of Iraq will try to halt violence in capital," The Baltimore Sun, July 26, 2006, Pg. 1A)

fall-winter 2006-2007

Of the many failures that have bedeviled the American military effort in Iraq, few are as inexplicable and costly as the failure to commit more resources to the Iraqi security forces. The only way U.S. troops will be able to go home without having failed in their mission is if Iraqis are capable of establishing order on their own. Yet U.S. efforts to train and equip the Iraqis got off to a laughable start in 2003 and have only slightly improved since. In the just-ended fiscal year, we spent $93.8 billion on U.S. troops in Iraq and just $3 billion on their indigenous counterparts. Most American troops live on giant bases complete with sprawling PXs and Internet cafes, and they go outside only in convoys of armored vehicles. Iraqi troops, by contrast, usually live in ramshackle quarters, often fail to receive enough ammunition or other essential supplies and have to travel in unarmored pickup trucks that make them easy prey for insurgents. Many of these shortcomings, of course, are because of the Iraqis' own inadequacies, particularly in the higher echelons and at the Ministry of Defense. But part of the blame falls on us for not doing more to bring the Iraqis along faster. (Max Boot, "Iraq's advisor gap," Los Angeles Times, October 18, 2006, Pg. 13)

Senior military leaders have begun a broad review of strategy in Iraq and other crisis areas in the Bush administration's campaign against terrorism, according to Pentagon officials. In a closely held effort, Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has assembled a team of some of the military's brightest and most innovative officers and told them to take a fresh look at Iraq and Afghanistan, among other flashpoints. Pentagon officials said that the team's objective was to outline a range of options that General Pace might draw on in advising President Bush and Robert M. Gates, selected by Mr. Bush to become defense secretary, as the White House adjusts its strategy in Iraq. Ideas that have been discussed include increasing the size of the Iraqi security forces, along with the American effort to train and equip them, and adjusting the size of the American force in Iraq. (Michael R. Gordon, "Military Team Undertakes a Broad Review of the Iraq War and the Campaign Against Terror," The New York Times, November 11, 2006, Pg. A8)

This wind-swept stretch of Kansas has become the hub of a major new push by the United States Army to overhaul its effort to advise Iraq's fledgling security forces. Following a disappointing performance by many Iraqi units and complaints that earlier efforts to train American advisers had been handicapped by bureaucratic inertia, the Army has handed the mission to Maj. Gen. Carter F. Ham, who had a previous stint as a commander in Iraq. Along with nearly 1,000 soldiers from his First Infantry Division, General Ham has sought to improve the training of the advisers as the Army has moved to upgrade the quality of these teams. The revamped effort began with little fanfare this summer, but has gained prominence in recent weeks as experts inside and outside the government have recommended that the military expand the advisers' ranks as part of a renewed push to strengthen the Iraqi security forces. The Army is "transitioning from an endeavor that has been less than a high priority to one that is of the highest priority," said Jack Keane, a retired four-star general who served as the Army vice chief of staff during the first months of the war. "And it is long overdue." Senior American military commanders calculate that strengthening the Iraqi forces, paired with efforts at political reconciliation by the Iraqi government, will enable the Iraqis to take more responsibility for their security and allow the United States to eventually begin withdrawing its forces. (Michael R. Gordon, "Army Expands Training for Advisers Who Will Try to Improve Iraq's Security Forces," The New York Times, November 25, 2006, Pg. A8)

Tens of thousands of American troops are shifting from combat operations against insurgents to training, advising and supporting Iraqi security forces in what military officials say will require a long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq. Rather than allowing American troops to withdraw to the sidelines, the new campaign will keep them directly in the violent middle ground between Iraq's warring factions, as increasing numbers of soldiers and Marines embed as combat advisers with Iraqi army and paramilitary police units. Already, some 6,000 Americans serve as advisers with Iraqi police units, for instance, in high-risk operations similar to those that have killed 4,000 Iraqi police officers over the past two years. The latest strategic phase, which began this fall and will accelerate in the months ahead, may even require a short-term increase from the 141,000 U.S. troops currently serving in Iraq, senior commanders have said. (David Wood, "U.S. Tests Indirect Approach in Iraq," The Baltimore Sun, November 25, 2006 Pg. 1A)

President George W. Bush yesterday put on a strong show of support for Nouri al-Maliki, describing Iraq's beleaguered prime minister as the "right guy for Iraq" and assuring him that the US administration would not respond to pressure for a "graceful exit". But Mr Maliki flew back to Baghdad and the crisis in his coalition government with little to show from their summit in neighbouring Jordan, other than rhetorical commitments and an understanding that the US would seek to accelerate the training of Iraqi security forces and the transfer of their authority to Mr Maliki province by province. Analysts in Washington said the lack of visible results from the summit demonstrated that US policy towards Iraq was effectively on hold until various internal reviews were completed in the coming weeks, as well as the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, mandated by Congress, which is to deliver its recommendations on December 6. (Sharmila Devi and Guy Dinmore, "Bush gives his full backing to beleaguered Iraqi PM," Financial Times, Pg. 5)

The newest program for training Iraqi security forces, embedding 11- to 15-member U.S. transition teams in Iraqi battalions, represents a "high-risk assignment" for the American officers and men involved, according to top military training officials. The concept is considered so dangerous that a group of potential replacements stand ready at Fort Riley, the U.S. Army base directing the program, for immediate shipment to Iraq if members of a deployed team are killed or wounded, Maj. Gen. Carter F. Ham, who runs the training program, told House members last week. While the U.S. training of Iraqis is considered key in determining the future of the American presence in Iraq, it remains a work in progress three years after it began, according to present and former senior U.S. Army and Marine officers involved in the process. (Walter Pincus, "Training Iraqis May Pose Risks For U.S.; Congress Told of Dangers to Troops," The Washington Post, December 10, 2006, Pg. A19)

President Bush outlined a tactical shift to the U.S. war in Iraq last night, but the basic strategy remains in place: a long-term and high-risk effort to simultaneously stabilize Iraq's most violent neighborhoods while training Iraqi security forces to take over the job, administration officials, military officers and analysts said. The refocused campaign, which will double the American combat forces in Baghdad, is expected to be long, difficult and bloody, according to the plan's authors. (David Wood, "U.S. Faces Long, Difficult, Bloody Conflict Under Same Strategy," The Baltimore Sun, January 11, 2007, Pg. 1A)

President Bush's plan to secure Iraq by committing 21,500 more U.S. troops rests on a shaky foundation: the Iraqi military. Recent reports by the Pentagon and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) say Iraqi security forces, primarily the military and police, suffer from a lack of training, supplies and availability. Though 322,600 Iraqi security personnel had been trained and equipped by last month, "the number of present-for-duty soldiers and police is much lower," according to a Pentagon progress report released in December. That's because so many Iraqi troops are on scheduled leave, are absent without leave or have left the service entirely, the report says. (Tom Vanden Brook, "U.S. expects new reliability from Iraqi forces; Baghdad strategy depends on troops being up to task," USA Today, January 12, 2007, Pg. 6A)

Among Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus's qualifications for the post of senior U.S. military commander in Iraq is his work training Iraqi security forces, as well as his oversight of the Army and Marine Corps' updated counterinsurgency field manual. But another document may prove useful to Petraeus in Iraq. In 1987, he earned a PhD from Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School with a 328-page thesis titled "The American Military and the Lessons of Vietnam: A Study of Military Influence and the Use of Force in the Post-Vietnam Era." Excerpts below. ("Petraeus on Vietnam's Legacy," The Washington Post, January 14, 2007, Pg. B04)

[part one | part two]

1 comment:

L.A. Howe said...

hey tom
saw this story in the dallas observer about the proposed bush presidential library:

interesting piece, but i was also kind of shocked to read about this Presidential Order 13233, which sounds like it would basically put both georges' papers out of the reach of scholars seeking access to them, esp. those to do with iraq. on the one hand makes me want to vomit (a frequent reaction to all things bush) but on the other hand, i just want to wave my hand, saying, "should we be surprised? hello? 'patriot' act? phone tapping? homeland 'security'?" bush continues to make inroads on various freedoms with one hand while he sweeps away his tracks with the other. i wonder if any other president has tried so hard to control what future historians might say about him.