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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 Coalition Creates the Multi-National Security Transition Command–Iraq (MNSTC-I)

In February and March 2004 the Coalition made further revisions to its security force programs in Iraq. The US Congress had approved an expansion in funding for operations in Iraq and new mechanisms had to be devised to administer the program. At the same time, the CPA was focusing its efforts on the accelerated turnover of sovereignty to an IIG on 1 July 2004, a transition that had been announced in November 2003. These new imperatives coincided with organizational changes. On 9 March 2004 Eaton became the head of the new Office of Security Cooperation–Iraq (OSC-I), which in turn oversaw the operations of CPATT and CMATT, now both under the command of British brigadier generals. Brigadier General Nigel Aylwin-Foster led the CMATT and was responsible for the army, air force, navy, and the ICDC (which became the ING later in 2004). Brigadier General Andrew Mackay commanded the new CPATT, now responsible for the police, border troops, and FPS. In retrospect, Major General Eaton considered this as Phase III of the CPA’s program to build the ISF. Eaton knew the NIA mission had its challenges, but once taking charge of the overall ISF effort, he found the police, FPS, and the border police programs to be in “absolute chaos.”117 His ability to begin addressing the turmoil was hindered because, for the first 2 months of its existence, OSC-I reported to both the CPA and the CJTF-7 in a contentious and awkward arrangement. Despite these obstacles, Eaton did manage to make an important symbolic move in mid-April. In preparation for the upcoming transfer of sovereignty to the IIG, he transferred control of the Iraqi Army from the Coalition to its new Iraqi commanders. Eaton described the simple, understated ceremony:

I sat down with the man we selected to be the Commanding General of the Iraqi Armed Forces, Lieutenant General Amer Bakr. . . . I said, ‘Today, you are a lieutenant general in the Iraqi Armed Forces and you are the Commanding General of the Iraqi Armed Forces.’ Then I said to Major General Daham (a 1966 graduate of the US Army Ranger School at Fort Benning), ‘You are the Deputy Commanding General for the Iraqi Armed Forces.’118

Eaton closed the official transfer by clearly stating to the Iraqi generals how he viewed the new relationship between the Iraqi Armed Forces and the Coalition: “I am subordinate to you now and I will take your instructions on what to do with the Iraqi Army provided it does not run counter to what I believe my government wants.”119

Soon after this transition, the Coalition transformed its military command structure in Iraq. Headquarters, MNF-I replaced CJTF-7 on 15 May 2004 with Lieutenant General Sanchez in command. MNF-I in turn replaced OSC-I on 6 June 2004 with the MNSTC-I. This new command, headed by Lieutenant General Petraeus who replaced Eaton, had the mission of coordinating the development of all ISF. (See chapter 4 for a fuller discussion of this process.) Although Eaton and his team had struggled to overcome significant hurdles and in the end had not met many of the Coalition’s goals, by mid-2004 CMATT had established a solid foundation on which Petraeus could build.

Prior to taking command of the MNSTC-I, Petraeus returned to Iraq in late April 2004 at the request of General Abizaid to do an assessment of the ISF and of the program to train and equip those forces. During this visit, he attended a conference on the ICDC and assisted the CJTF-7 leaders in introducing significant changes to the program. The conference agreed on 10 principles for the ICDC (later the ING), which included the need for Iraqi soldiers to be treated as soldiers, not day laborers; the need to station them on military bases rather than requiring the soldiers to commute; and the need to have adequate and reliable pay and support.120 These changes were important because the existing six ICDC brigades each later became the nucleus for a division of the Iraqi Army in 2004. Along with the 3 initial regular army divisions and 1 mechanized division, these formations became the 10 divisions of the army fielded by Iraq and the Coalition in early 2005.121

In the midst of the changes in command structure, Petraeus’ team developed a vastly expanded JMD for MNSTC-I headquarters to replace the relatively small OSC-I staff. By early 2005 Petraeus would have a British lieutenant general working as his deputy. Additionally, Petraeus placed US general officers in charge of CMATT and CPATT, each with unique advisory efforts, and gained an Australian brigadier as the chief of a team advising the Iraqi joint headquarters. MNSTC-I’s staff followed the traditional structure of most joint staffs, but Petraeus had reinforced the command’s logistics, contracting, and engineering capacity at every level to handle the purchasing, supplying, and construction aspects of its new missions. The task in front of MNSTC-I was enormous—to build the tactical units, the training and educational base, the recruiting system, the policies and systems, and the national institutions of Iraq’s entire security structure and accomplish all of this while fighting a lethal insurgency. Also, Petraeus had to coordinate his command’s program with the US Embassy which oversaw the advisors who assisted the IIG’s new ministries.

The realities of Iraqi sovereignty after 28 June 2004 increased the complexity of the train, equip, rebuild, and advise tasks facing the Coalition and MNSTC-I. With the IIG in control of its own future, US and Coalition forces could not simply direct or order Iraqi units and leaders as they had during the occupation from May 2003 to June 2004. As a sovereign nation, Iraq’s government and ministry officials had the authority to structure and equip their forces as they chose. This change fit within a larger pattern of new relationships between Coalition organizations in Iraq and the Iraqi Government.

Just prior to the IIG taking power in June 2004, the CPA transferred management of the reconstruction projects and the Iraqi ministries advisory mission to the IRMO under the oversight of the US Embassy in Baghdad. The US Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region Division and the US Army Joint Contracting Command–Iraq/Afghanistan provided construction and contracting support to IRMO and MNSTC-I. Other US agencies, such as the US Agency for International Development (USAID), administered programs funded by the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund (IRRF). The MNSTC-I staff had to engage all of these organizations on a daily basis as they worked with the various security forces that reported to the MOI and the Ministry of Defense.

With the IIG in place after June 2004, Coalition political and military officials made great progress in getting Iraqi officials to take ownership and demonstrate leadership over their security forces. As Petraeus recalled, creating security forces that were self-sufficient was paramount:

I talked about ministry capability being absolutely crucial. But it was recognized some months back that we can develop all the battalions, brigades, divisions and ground forces, and police, and so forth, in the world, but they’ve got to be supportable and supported by the Ministries of the Defense and Interior to ensure eventual self-reliance and transition to complete Iraqi control.122

Petraeus and his planners, in coordination with the new Iraqi leadership, conducted an extensive troop-to-task analysis of Iraq’s security force requirements in July and August 2004. The analysis recommended increasing the strength levels of the Iraqi Army, the new ING (formerly the ICDC), police, and border police yet again. The ING, for example, grew from the original 6 battalions of the ICDC in the summer of 2003 to 65 battalions operating under 6 different Iraqi divisions by the end of 2004.123 In a significant change from the CPA concept for the Iraqi Army, the MNSTC-I analysis also recommended that the Iraqi Armed Forces take on responsibility for Iraq’s internal security threats. The new ISF analysis, which included unit sizes, end strength, and costs, underscored the need for additional funds. Ambassador John Negroponte and the new MNF-I Commander, General George W. Casey Jr., allocated another $1.8 billion to the mission in response to the findings.124

Measuring progress in the building of new Iraqi Security Forces generated intense controversy almost from the beginning of the program. Progress could not simply be gauged by the number of individuals enrolled, but also had to be measured by the level of equipping, training, and continued operation of those individuals. The CPA and CJTF-7 sparred over responsibilities, standards and the rate of progress in 2003 and the first half of 2004. Making this problem worse was the weak and divided Iraqi Government that struggled to emerge in the face of an unrelenting insurgency. Iraq’s security forces trying to adapt professional military practices in this period were challenged by high desertion rates, a culture of corruption, infiltration by insurgent groups, and internal ethnic and religious strife.

During its first two months of existence, MNSTC-I undertook a comprehensive review of the size and reporting of the various ISF programs it had inherited. That review led to a dramatic reform in the way the Coalition measured ISF numbers and capabilities. Instead of simply reporting the number of individuals enrolled in an ISF program, MNSTC-I created the “trained and equipped” standard. Between July and September 2004, for example, this assessment removed almost 100,000 insufficiently trained, ill equipped, or nonexistent police and facility protection service officers from the MOI’s rolls. In September 2004 DOD reported there were approximately 100,000 fully trained and equipped soldiers and police officers in Iraq, and another 60,000 who were in the process of training and other preparation.125 Not surprisingly, the sharp decrease in the numbers of trained Iraqis garnered a great deal of attention within Iraq and the United States.

The new assessment system, however, marked the introduction of a more careful and deliberate approach to measuring progress in the training of the ISF. By early 2005 the numbers and capability of Iraqi Security Forces began to climb, reflecting the vastly increased size of the train and equip mission under MNSTC-I. In January 2005, on the eve of the first free national elections in Iraq in decades, MNSTC-I reported that it had assisted Iraqi authorities in the training and equipping of approximately 125,000 ISF of all kinds—Army, Navy, Air Force, National and Local Police, and Border Security Troops.126 Petraeus and his staff also knew that in addition to an accurate accounting of numbers of individuals, a rating system was necessary to measure the effectiveness of ISF units once they became operational. Over the winter of 2004–2005 they worked with MNC-I to establish unit readiness standards similar to the criteria used by the US Army. The four-tiered system assessed each unit on six different measures of effectiveness and would become known as the Transition Readiness Assessment System when it was implemented in the spring of 2005.127

Some obstacles to the formation of professional and competent security forces could not be overcome with money. Perhaps the most important of these was creating a sense of commitment among those who served the country they defended. Events such as the NIA’s 2d Battalion’s refusal to fight in the first battle of Fallujah revealed that ISF members in 2004 did not all share a desire to defend the new Iraq regardless of the threat. Ethnic and confessional identities, of course, militated against the establishment of a national ethos of service in post-Saddam Iraq. Recruits for the ISF tended to be from Shia and Kurdish areas where citizens felt empowered to participate in the nation’s future. Despite being aggressively encouraged to join the ISF, Sunni Arabs were more reluctant to participate, reflecting their fear of intimidation by aggressive Sunni insurgents, as well as the loss of privilege they enjoyed under Saddam and an emerging sense of disenchantment with the IIG, which they perceived to be biased against Sunnis. To create diversity, the ministries and the Coalition focused extensively on recruiting Sunnis with only minimal success.128 To begin the process of instilling a sense of commitment to the new Iraq, leaders of the ISF developed a new oath of service that emphasized duty to the nation, the Iraqi constitution, and the many populations that made up the country.

Chapter 11. Training the Iraqi Security Forces

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