Friday, May 04, 2007

Good News with Iraq training programs

LTG Martin Dempsey, Commander, Multi-National Security Transition Command - Iraq, with an operational update for the Blogger's Roundtable, Friday, 04 May at 12 Noon Eastern. The general assessment in Baghdad is that at the tactical level the metrics are doing quite well. Iraqi soldiers are fighting and dying and moving around the country in large numbers. Commanders of units and Iraqi leaders are acknowledging responsibilities much more than a year ago. Systems and processes like architectures and support is a more challenging task- the higher up in the echelons of command the greater the vulnerability becomes due to unsophisticated backgrounds. Most of the senior leaders are still from the former regime and old habits die hard. However, there is some leadership which is very keen on new techniques and changing the old ways. At the institution level progress is taking place but we aren't there yet. As for previous problem areas: logistics- this was built to be contractor supported as a conscious decision from the beginning to get soldiers out on security missions instead of in the background. This deferred self performed logistics by the military itself. Life support and food are contract supported so this gives other Iraqi civilians jobs. Overcoming challenges is a large problem since our enemies attack vulnerabilities which they know well. Mission support restructuring is getting 10 dollars per day and there is less corruption at the current time- so they can actually recieve all 10 dollars worth of support. Operations and maintenance are also civilian contracted- but we are aspiring to be self supported. This will take time to get to have all systems being run by the Army. An expansion by 20K troops for the next year is the target for now. Sheikhs in Anbar have been strongly encouraging recruits for police- is it same for army? The Annual instride assessments have been conducted to grow the right amount of capabilities as the situation on the ground changes. We will be up to 370K by end of 2007 for growth within all security forces. Iraqis are funding this growth plan of 24 battalions. The replenishing of ranks to account for attrition is an ongoing process. There are now 5 regional training centers to replenish and grow the ranks. In anbar there is great enthusiasm to join the police forces. Originally the police went from 8K to 11K- but now up to 14K and still more recruits are coming every week. There are currently 12 police academies with another one coming on line in Habbaniyah. As far as joining the army, the Sunni recruits would rather be in the police as they don't like to blend in with a majority Shia army and so this is tougher but we are still filling two divisions. How is convoy safety in southern Iraq? Has it been deteriorating due to Iraq taking over the battle space? There are long lines of communication with Kuwait which we are working very hard on. We used to run convoys from Safwan and up through Basra. But we are soon to open a route from Kuwait City and up through more desolate areas to get around troublespots for our convoys. Electronic countermeasures are being upgraded. We have one specialized brigade tasked for convoy security. What is the impact of delayed funding? During the meeting in Amman between President Bush and Maliki they decided to accelerate the indigenous Iraqi force development. The army has anticipated a loss of money months ago. So the US army fronted cash flow against arrival of supplemental so they have not had an impact yet. But they do need the money for momentum and to repay the OSD. This can't be delayed past july. The Mcclatchey press report was an oversimplification of everything that is happening. The coalition forces are coming in to provide a greater opportunity to partner with Iraqi units. Security has become focal point but still training is ongoing. How is the awol rate? It is a manual system to track who is where. some men walk off as individuals and then come back so there is flux in the ranks. Last fall 2,500 soldiers returned back to their units. Pay is becoming automated with voice and data- but need to put in electronic banking system which is problematic in the middle east. plus bandwidth problems. With each day do the Iraqi security forces get stronger or weaker- is time on the side of the government or on the insurgency and how do you determine this? As long as we don't stop our support of the ministries and the military in the near future, time is on the side of the government and the Iraqi army. Great progress has been made, they need more work but they are patient. It is hard to train an entire army in the middle of fighting a war, but we can get it done as long as we continue with the task at hand.

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