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ON POINT II: Transition to the New Campaign

The United States Army in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM May 2003-January 2005

Part III

Toward the Objective: Building a New Iraq

Chapter 11
Training the Iraqi Security Forces


The ISF at the Crossroads, January 2004

In September 2003 the Coalition had directed a major increase in the number of ISF, accelerated by 2 years the CPA’s original plan to train 27 battalions of the NIA by the summer of 2006, and added an air force and maritime force to the overall Iraqi defense structure. The CPATT’s efforts to train Iraqi police finally began to bear fruit when Iraqi police recruits began training in Jordan in November 2003. Nevertheless, confirming the actual state of the IPS and other police forces, including the actual numbers of trained police on duty, remained a difficult task for the Coalition at the close of 2003. By the spring of 2004, it had also become clear to senior Coalition leaders in CJTF-7, the CPA, CENTCOM, and the US Government that they faced an increasingly large and effective insurgency in Iraq. By that time, the Coalition reported it had fielded over 100,000 police, including the IPS, the FPS, 30,000 members of the ICDC, and approximately 1,200 soldiers in the NIA.98 However, the actual quality and quantity of these forces, especially police units, were questionable.

After the Sunni and Shia uprisings in April 2004, the threat of the growing insurgency required that all ISF units add internal security tasks to their mission sets. Consequently, the Coalition had to make major improvements in training and equipping the ISF’s to take on their role in internal security. “We’ll stand down as the Iraqi’s stand up” soon became shorthand for the goal of the security line of operation within the overall Coalition campaign plan for Iraq. Neither the CENTCOM commander nor the CJTF-7 commander, however, felt that the CPA was giving CMATT sufficient priority and related resources to handle the vastly expanded mission. To resolve the issue, Sanchez and Abizaid wanted the overall ISF mission moved from CPA to CJTF-7.99

By January 2004 Major General Eaton’s CMATT staff had grown in size from its original 6-person team in June 2003 to slightly over 200 personnel, including the members of the advisor teams who served with ISF units. CMATT had also become a true joint and Coalition effort. Its initial headquarters JMD authorized 19 international officers, 22 Marines, 11 Sailors, and 12 Airmen among the 126 planned positions. Spain, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Poland contributed officers to CMATT and a British brigadier general, Jonathan Riley, served as CMATT’s deputy chief.100 Despite this augmentation, Eaton believed from the beginning that the Coalition program to build the ISF had never received the attention or resources it warranted. He recalled, “Nobody wearing a DOD sticker gave [the ISF program] the importance it needed in the face of compelling evidence that the only way out of Iraq was the ISF becoming viable.”101

The CMATT’s planning efforts to create the organizational structure for training and advising the NIA were hampered by joint and Army manning processes. CPA and CMATT had contracted with the Vinnell Corporation to jump-start the process in July and August 2003. The Army and Marines provided a few individuals, as did Australia and the United Kingdom, but many involved realized that the long-term solution was to man the CMATT primarily with US military personnel. The greatest need appeared to be continued development and mentoring after units completed initial training. The 1st Battalion of the NIA, for example, began to dissolve soon after its October graduation due to poor Iraqi leadership and desertions. To instill rigor and continue the training, some US Army units began serving alongside the new Iraqi soldiers. Artillerymen from the 1st Battalion, 17th Field Artillery (1-17th FA), of the 4th ID, for example, became advisors to the Iraqi battalion in their AOR.

By early fall of 2003 one of the original members of the CMATT, Lieutenant Colonel Blaise Cornell-d’Echert, had begun to view advisors as an integral element in the effort to create a sustainable Iraqi force. Cornell-d’Echert devised the structure and personnel requirements that would truly enable CMATT to train and advise a large professional army. Working with Eaton, he designed three components to the structure—a headquarters element for CMATT; training teams to provide initial military training to new Iraqi units, NCOs, and officers; and US advisor teams to accompany those new units on operational missions. The advisors would form 10-man units initially called advisor support teams (ASTs), each of which were assigned to an Iraqi battalion. The components required different types of Soldiers with different skills suited to the particular task at hand. Those personnel were needed quickly because the next Iraqi units, manned with enlisted soldiers, NCOs, and officers, were scheduled to be activated fully and available for operations in early 2004.102

In early October 2003 the CMATT submitted its new structural concept to the Services via CENTCOM using the Request for Forces (RFF) process. This process allowed the requesting headquarters to ask for existing units for specified missions. In contrast, the JMD process created a list of individual positions, with required specific skills and ranks that the Services must fill. The first RFF requested 311 Soldiers, organized in teams designed to train and advise 2 division and 2 brigade headquarters, 8 battalions, and an NCO academy.103 Cornell-d’Echert and the CMATT recommended the use of the US Army Reserve Training Support Divisions (TSDs) to fill the RFF.104 Those units provided training to the Reserve Components and were staffed with combat arms and combat support Soldiers experienced in providing, observing, and evaluating collective training.

Many of the TSDs, however, were being used by the Army in 2004 to support the large-scale mobilization of the Army Reserve and the Army National Guard (ARNG) and were not available for service in Iraq. Instead of receiving individuals and teams that were picked and trained for the mission, CMATT, in Cornell-d’Echert’s view, began to receive a mix of personnel in early 2004 who, in many cases, were not prepared for the missions they had to perform. The US Marine Corps provided some of the best-suited personnel in the initial wave of advisors to arrive in Iraq.105 The Army provided a combination of Soldiers from the Active and Reserve Components, only some of which had the necessary background.106 This contingent included some highly trained observer-controllers from the Combined Arms Maneuver Center at Hohenfels, Germany, who were well prepared for the mission.

Despite CMATT’s efforts to remodel and improve its structure, leaders in the DOD found that the overall Coalition ISF effort needed to be revamped. In January 2004 they sent Major General Karl W. Eikenberry to assess the ISF training programs. Eikenberry had just completed more than a year in Afghanistan in command of the Coalition headquarters that oversaw the creation of a new Afghan Army. His report confirmed what both CPA and CJTF-7 already knew—providing security was the main effort in Iraq and current ISF programs were not building capacity fast enough. His most significant recommendation to the DOD was that all security force programs be consolidated for efficiency and effectiveness, and most importantly, that they be placed under the command of CJTF-7.107 Naturally this rankled the CPA, and Ambassador Bremer did not concur with the report.108 Nevertheless, the NSC and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld accepted and acted on Eikenberry’s report.

Chapter 11. Training the Iraqi Security Forces

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