IRAQ: Training Iraqi Forces

IRAQ: Training Iraqi Forces

January 27, 2005 1:20 pm (EST)

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How many Iraqi troops are fully trained?

Some 40,000 Iraqi security force members “can go anywhere in the country and take on almost any threat,” General Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Senate panel February 3. Myers’ estimate was the latest assertion in an ongoing dispute over how many Iraqis are fully trained for combat. At a January 18 hearing on her nomination to be secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that there were 120,000 trained Iraqi troops, a number that approximated Pentagon estimates at the time. Senator Joseph Biden (D-Del.) dismissed Rice’s number as “malarkey” and said, based on his observations in Iraq, that the tally was closer to 4,000.

Which details did Pentagon officials give in their testimony?

Speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Myers displayed a chart showing 79,116 Iraqi police and Interior Ministry security personnel, and 56,949 army and other military troops—a total of 136,065 security forces. All these forces are formally classified by the Pentagon as “trained and equipped.” But Myers said only a third of them were combat-ready; the remainder, he said, were prepared for less demanding missions like basic police work. Myers said he had confidence in the figures for the military forces, but the police estimates, he said, could be inflated. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz told senators that absentee rates in some Iraqi army units were as high as 40 percent, partly because many new soldiers fail to return from home leave.

What is the status of the training process?

Many observers say the vetting and training of soldiers, national guardsmen, and police, while improved in recent months, continues to be fraught with difficulty. The issue is of critical importance because, until the Iraqi forces are fully trained, U.S. and foreign forces will likely remain on the front lines against the insurgency.

How are the Iraqi forces organized?

According to the U.S. State Department, Iraq’s new security services have 12 separate but intertwined branches. The army is split into three branches: the regular army, the Iraqi Intervention Force, and the special operations division. The national guard functions as a separate entity, but cooperates with the army. The police force has three branches: the regular police, the Civil Intervention Force, and the emergency response unit. There is also the border patrol, the highway patrol, the dignitary protection service, and a small navy and air force.

How long do most forces train?

  • Most army troops receive at least eight weeks of basic training. Former soldiers from Saddam Hussein’s military receive three weeks of training. Special Forces units and other specialized soldiers receive advanced training.
  • National guard troops receive three weeks of formal training and then on-the-job training by working with U.S. forces.
  • Iraqi police new to the force receive at least eight weeks of basic training. Former police from Saddam Hussein’s forces take an accelerated three-week course. Specialized police units receive additional training.

Are changes to the training regimen in the works?

Yes. The Pentagon sent a retired four-star general, Gary E. Luck, to Iraq in mid-January to review military operations and the training program. He is expected to recommend that thousands of additional U.S. Army advisers be assigned to Iraqi units to continue on-the-job mentoring and training. At present, there are a “few thousand” embedded U.S. advisers; this number could rise to as much as 10,000, Lieutenant General John R. Vines told The New York Times January 11. Vines will take over as the lead U.S. combat officer in Iraq in mid-February. Army General John Abizaid, the top U.S. military authority in the Persian Gulf region, said January 26, “Clearly, in the postelection environment in Iraq, we intend to increase the level of our training and partnership with the Iraqi security forces.” Abizaid did not provide details, and said they were still being worked out.

When will Iraqi forces be ready to take over security duties?

It depends on many factors, experts say: the effectiveness of the troops’ vetting and preparation, the quality of their equipment, their willingness to fight, and the strength of their insurgent enemies. Iraq’s interim Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib said February 7 he believed the country could establish full control of its internal security within 18 months. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld has declined to give a specific timeline.

Has the U.S. government provided any estimates of when Iraqi forces will be ready to take over internal security duties?

In early 2004, Pentagon officials estimated that Iraq’s forces would reach what they considered full strength—250,000—in mid-2005. Since then, the insurgency has intensified and the performance of Iraqi units has been uneven: some have fought capably alongside U.S. forces, but others have deserted under fire. The U.S. military increased its Iraqi troop goal to 271,000 in June 2004 after a reassessment of the security situation. White House spokesman Trent Duffy said January 14 that President Bush hopes to have 225,000 Iraqi personnel trained by the end of 2005.

Is the training behind schedule?

It appears to be, but because the U.S.-led training program has evolved over time, it’s difficult to know. “My sense is that we are on schedule,” says Steven Alvarez, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad. In September 2004, Rumsfeld testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that he believed 145,000 troops would be trained by the end of January 2005, about 20,000 more than current Pentagon estimates. A U.S. State Department report released January 5 stated that the training and equipping of the Iraqi army is “one week to one month” behind schedule. Significant desertion rates among police and national guard forces in Falluja, Ramadi, Mosul, and other insurgency hotspots have also set back the creation of effective units.

What other information is publicly available about the forces’ readiness?

The U.S. State Department submits a quarterly report to Congress that summarizes how it spends the $18.4 billion in reconstruction aid that was granted in November 2003. Much of this money is being spent on training and equipping Iraqi forces. The Multi-National Security Transition Command Iraq (MNSTCI), the U.S.-led unit responsible for Iraqi security force development, provides some information about training courses and numbers of Iraqi graduates. The U.S. Defense Department also posts weekly training progress reports on its website. But Anthony Cordesman, a security analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies who published an analysis of Iraqi security force development in early January, says additional details of the troops’ performance and combat-readiness are required to accurately assess their capabilities.

How is the Iraqi army organized?

According to information released by the U.S. government, it consists of:

  • The regular Iraqi army, intended to protect the nation from foreign and domestic threats.
  • The Iraqi Intervention Force, a specially trained counterinsurgency wing.
  • The Special Operations Force, a small, highly trained strike force that conducts covert and other specialized missions.

How many soldiers are in each branch?

According to the Pentagon, as of January 19:

  • The regular army had 7,598 troops. Pentagon plans call for a total of 24,425.
  • The intervention force had 5,884 troops; the Pentagon’s goal is 6,360.
  • Special operations had 674; the Pentagon’s goal is 1,967.

According to the January 5 U.S. State Department report, the combined forces will be at their required size by March 2005. In all, 18 of 27 planned battalions are now operating. A battalion can vary in size from 300 to 1,000 men, depending on its mission.

What is the training regimen for the Iraqi army?

Most of the current soldiers have received eight weeks of basic training, according to the Pentagon. This consists of instruction in weapons, marching, discipline, and physical training. To beef up the ranks, a new, accelerated program is under way for new recruits who were soldiers or officers in Saddam Hussein’s army. These forces receive three weeks of U.S. training before joining army units.

Iraqi Intervention Force soldiers are slated to complete an additional six weeks of training in street fighting, building-clearing operations, and other techniques necessary for anti-insurgent operations in cities and towns; it is unclear how many have done so.

The Iraqi Special Forces receive intensive training in unconventional warfare operations, counterterrorism, survival, and escape skills that lasts 12 weeks or more. There are two special forces battalions. The 36th Commando Battalion consists of militia fighters linked to political parties who opposed Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi Counterterrorism Battalion receives specialized training in tracking terrorists. The Iraqi Ministry of Defense plans to create a third special forces battalion in the coming months.

What training do officers receive?

Officer training programs have been slow to get off the ground, experts say. Among the recent developments: a pilot, three-month officer training program began in Baghdad in December 2004 with some 150 NATO trainers, and 42 officers have attended NATO officer training school in Europe, according to the U.S. State Department.

What’s the condition of Iraqi army bases?

Poor but improving. Many Iraqi bases were destroyed in the U.S-led invasion or heavily looted afterwards, and some require nearly complete reconstruction. The State Department, which is charged with spending the $18.4 billion in U.S. reconstruction aid, has budgeted $691 million for rebuilding Iraqi army bases and other facilities. Construction is under way at five military bases: Kirkush, Kirkuk, Talil, An Numaniya, and Al Kasik.

How is the Iraqi national guard organized?

National Guard forces are recruited and serve in regions where they live, often returning home at night after conducting operations or joint patrols with U.S. forces. As with the U.S. National Guard, Iraqi guardsmen serve part-time but are subject to full-time deployments. U.S. military analyses have found that these local forces are more vulnerable to insurgent intimidation and infiltration; at least two senior national guard commanders have been arrested for insurgent ties. General Luck is expected to recommend that more national guard soldiers be assigned to bases distant from their home regions, news reports say.

How many national guard forces are there?

As of January 19, there were 36,827 trained soldiers in 45 battalions. In its January 5 report, the U.S. State Department forecasts the national guard will reach its target strength of 62 battalions and number 61,904 men by August 2005.

What does national guard training consist of?

The three weeks of formal training follow the Iraqi army model, focusing on weapons instruction, marching, and physical fitness. Afterward, troops continue on-the-job training by conducting operations with coalition forces.

How are the Iraqi police organized?

The Iraqi police force is broken down into three major divisions:

  • The regular police. Hired locally in each municipality, these officers are slated to eventually become part of a nationally organized force.
  • Civil Intervention Force. A better-trained, better-armed, backup police unit that can be called in to replace a police force dispersed or hit by insurgents.
  • Emergency Response Unit. It can be called in when Iraqi police are under fire.

How many police officers are there?

As of January 19, there were 58,126 trained police: 55,059 regular police; 2,862 in the Civil Intervention Force; and 205 in the Emergency Response Unit, the Pentagon reported. However, this number includes so-called unauthorized absences, police officers who have not reported to work for some length of time but are still being paid. Pentagon plans call for a total of 140,190 police in Iraq: 135,000 regular police, 4,920 civil intervention police, and 270 emergency response personnel.

How much training do police receive?

New recruits undergo eight weeks of basic training, while former police from Saddam Hussein’s regime receive three weeks. As of December 27, 2004, 18,323 regular police officers had been through the eight-week training, and 34,801 were trained in the three-week Transition Integration Program.

In light of the insurgency, the eight-week academy curriculum now includes more field training, the State Department reports. The Pentagon is providing additional rifles and machine guns, improving security at police stations, and making efforts to link police stations to responsive back-up forces and police commando brigades.

Specialized police units get additional training. Civil Intervention Force members, for example, are due to receive six additional weeks of instruction; it is unclear how many have received this training.

What condition are police facilities in?

As with army facilities, many Iraqi police stations were either destroyed in combat, heavily looted after the U.S. invasion, or have been attacked and damaged by insurgents. The U.S. State Department reported January 5 that construction is under way on 49 new police stations, and funding has been committed to complete an additional 867 stations.

What other Iraqi security forces are there?

  • Border Police. Border police, charged with securing Iraq’s boundaries, receive four weeks of formal training. But the January 5 State Department report summarizing how U.S. reconstruction funds are spent states that there have been serious problems with vetting and ensuring quality among these troops. “It is believed that many of those border police employed during the early days of the CPA [Coalition Provisional Authority—the occupation government disbanded in June 2004] do not meet the desired standards,” it says. The report also says 42 of 200 border forts that will house police along the frontiers are complete. The force has 14,786 of its required 28,360 personnel.
  • Air Force. U.S. plans call for Iraq to have a small air force of 453 personnel flying light reconnaissance aircraft, C-130 transport planes, and helicopters. Operations will center on supporting Iraqi security force operations on the ground, the Pentagon reports. Some 250 men are on duty. Air force personnel receive one to four months of training, mostly in the United Arab Emirates and Jordan.
  • Navy. U.S. plans call for a small navy of 582 men which will protect the country’s 50-mile long coastline and off-shore oil facilities. Navy sailors receive eight weeks of basic training and then additional sea training for the boat crews. Some 500 are now on duty.
  • Highway Patrol. In October 2004, this unit, which will provide law enforcement and security along highways and major roadways, was split off from the police. It is at an early stage of development with 327 trained officers of the 6,300 required.
  • The Bureau of Dignitary Protection. This small force is designed to be similar in nature to the U.S. Secret Service and provide protection to top government officials. The Pentagon reports there are now 484 trained personnel; the target force size is 500.

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