Iraq: February 8, 2005


Iraqi army and police forces are mow in charge of security in 12 of the countrys 18 provinces. The Iraqi armed forces currently have 136,000 trained and equipped personnel on duty, with another 3,500 completing their training this week. The Interior Ministry has 79,000 police and security personnel. These include regular police; special police commandoes (SWAT teams), plus public order and police mechanized battalions; border guard units; and VIP bodyguards ("dignitary-protection elements.") The Defense Ministry has the other 57,000 personnel, who are assigned to the Iraqi army, intervention forces (SWAT teams), National Guard, air force, navy and special operations (the Iraqi Special Operations Forces). These forces are organized into ninety battalions, or which 88 are operating, and two more are still in training, and will be in operation by the end of the month. The battalions tend to be smaller than American units, averaging 400-500 men each. There are some women in police units. 

Desertion is still a problem, but it was always a problem in Iraq. Saddams army was notorious for many, if not most, of the troops fleeing when the shooting started. This is being addressed by more careful selection and training of officers and NCOs. American trainers are not shy about appealing to Iraqi pride, and pointing out that Iraqis can perform as well as American troops if they have good leadership and training. Even though Saddams Republican Guard got smashed every time they stood and fought, they were able to at least do that because they had better trained and equipped officers and troops. Iraqi officers and NCOs are getting more training than ever before, and it is beginning to pay off. The Iraqis also have the example of American officers and NCOs, and increasingly, Iraqi units that are trained and led, by Iraqis, but in the American style. 

Theres nothing mysterious about, the American Style. This consists of intensive training for the troops by officers and NCOs who know what they are doing. Most importantly, the officers and NCOs take care of their troops. The Iraqi custom was for officers to consider themselves a class apart and treat the troops like dirt. That is discouraged now, and it is emphasized that this poor treatment was the major reason for the desertions, and Iraqi units coming apart in combat. It is emphasized the military competence has nothing to do with being Iraqi or American, and everything to do with training and leadership. Its not easy to change cultural customs, but as more Iraqis buy-in to leadership and training techniques that work, they create Iraqi units that serve as a models of effectiveness for other Iraqis. 

While many Iraqis serve in the security forces mainly because its the best paid job they can get, others are dedicated to bringing order to the country. The Kurds and Shia Arabs, who make up most of the elite units, are determined to put down the Sunni Arab terrorism. And some Iraqis think about the two wars they have lost to Americans in twelve years, and believe if they can fight like Americans, the next time around, they might win, or least put up a better fight. On a more practical level, Iraq has always considered itself the most powerful Arab country in the Persian Gulf. But their battlefield record doesnt support that. Iran is a particularly worrisome threat. The Iranians have been defeating the Arabs for thousands of years, and theres always the fear that the Iranians will come back again. Being able to fight like Americans gives Iraqis a little more confidence that, the next time the Iranians come, they will be defeated without years of bloody fighting, as happened in the 1980s. 

There is also a problem with equipment. Since last Summer, Iraqi forces have been given 79,000 pistols, 60,000 assault rifles, 94,000 sets of body armor, 5,900 vehicles, 20,900 radios, 2,400 heavy machine guns, 54,000 Kevlar helmets, and 79 million rounds of ammunition. Iraqis are now being equipped with night vision equipment, sniper rifles (and training), armored vehicles, patrol boats, helicopters and reconnaissance aircraft. 

Iraqi headquarters and intelligence troops are getting computers, and software for managing information. The bases being built for American troops will be turned over to the Iraqis when American troops leave. The American trainers make a point of saying that as soon as Iraqi troops and police can handle security in all 18 provinces, American combat units can go home. Exactly when this happens is up to the Iraqis. The last American combat units to leave will be a few combat brigades serving as reaction forces, to back up Iraqi military units. 

The war against the terrorists is mainly a police operation, with Iraqi intelligence personnel and SWAT teams taking the lead in identifying, and arresting (or killing) the terrorists. The SWAT teams and commandoes get most of the publicity, but the work of the new Iraqi intelligence units is crucial (and, for obvious reasons, not given a lot of publicity). A major problem with intelligence work is the corruption that is endemic to Iraq. Eventually, American intelligence forces will turn over their huge collection of data to the Iraqis. But first, the Iraqis have to get control of the corruption that enables the terrorists to bribe or blackmail (by kidnapping a relative, for example) Iraqi intelligence officers. Such corruption is also a problem throughout the security forces, but its most troublesome with the Iraqi intelligence personnel. No one is predicting when this problem will be solved, or at least reduced to acceptable levels. But Iraqis won't be fully in control of its own country until it can control corruption. Saddam did this with terror, now Iraqis have to develop a less vile, and violent approach. No one yet knows when or how this will happen.


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