Friday, September 30, 2005

There's been a lot of press about the three "battalions capable of independent action" becoming only one, and of course that begs the question: are the Iraqi forces getting better or worse? The answer seems to be: on the whole, they're getting much better and more numerous, but require supervision.

My understanding is there are 10 U.S. advisers in every battalion. This is how you build an army; you don’t just give them guns and say “Have at it boys!” If you want to call it hand-holding as some are, fine. But they are out there fighting, and they took the lead in Tal Afar.

They are probably going to need those advisers for the next 2-5 years or so. Frankly, I’m surprised we have even one Iraq battalion running around by itself.

The reason is the same reason that the old Iraqi “Army” self-disbanded at the time of the invasion: as in most Mideast armies, there was no NCO corps. NCOs are the glue that hold together an army, and it takes a long time to develop such a corps.

(In lieu of NCOs, like most Arab countries the Iraqi “Army” (if you can call it that) apparently had platoon-level IIS agents holding guns to conscripts’ heads. Why do the Arab armies have this in common? Think about the mechanics of dictatorship for a minute, and it’s obvious: loyalty to the current head of state must be strictly enforced among the military if the dictator wants to stay in power. If a general knows his troops are loyal to him, he could be dictator himself pretty fast.)

Interesting report from Gen. Casey today:

“On the military side, coalition forces and Iraqi security forces continue to pressure terrorists and insurgents across Iraq. And Iraqi security forces are progressing and continuing to take a more prominent role in defending their country. Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. In May, Iraqi security forces conducted about 160 combined or independent operations at the company level and above, so about 100 people as company level, and about 160 operations. In September, that was over 1,300, and then our transition teams that we have put with the Iraqi security forces have greatly enhanced their development and their ability to operate with us. We are at the point now where 80 percent of all of the company- level and higher operations that are done are combined operations with the Iraqi or Iraqi independent operations—big step forward.

“Additionally, we expect to have 60[000] to 70,000 more Iraqi security forces available for referendum security than we had in January, and by the time of the elections, we expect to have about 100,000 more Iraqi security forces available to protect those elections than we had in January. So as a result, for example, I only had to ask for an additional 2,000 coalition troops to protect the referendum and election process this year vice 12,000 in January”

(h/t Mixed Humor, John Cole)

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