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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 inability of the ISF to take the lead in combating the insurgency in 2003 and 2004 was one of the greatest shortcomings of the overall Coalition and Iraqi campaign. Nearly 4 years later, as this study was prepared for publication, the ISF was still not fully prepared to engage internal and external threats to their country. Part of the reason for this slow development was that for the first 12 months of OIF, the ISF program was largely an improvisation. Though Coalition special operations forces (SOF) trained and advised Iraqis during and after the invasion of March 2003, the scale of the mission far exceeded their capacity. No American military leader entered Iraq in 2003 expecting to train, equip, or advise the entire body of security forces in a new Iraq on a multiyear basis, and to do so in the midst of an intense insurgency. Instead, Coalition military headquarters planned and made decisions based on the critical assumption that Saddam’s army and police, in some configuration, would be called back into service and employed as the main security forces in a post-Saddam Iraq. The complete collapse of Saddam’s armed forces in April 2003 invalidated that key assumption. The CPA’s order to formally dissolve the security forces, which recognized facts on the ground, required a massive rebuilding program for which the US had not prepared. The multifaceted insurgency that evolved by late summer 2003 soon forced this mission to the forefront of the Coalition’s effort.

Despite the problems created by the CPA decision, the Coalition responded quickly and resolutely in two ways. First, through CMATT and CPATT the CPA initiated the creation of professional military and police forces that would, in the long term, provide security for the new Iraqi state. Second, when the CMATT and CPATT efforts proved to be moving too slowly to address the worsening security environment in Iraq, Coalition military units began their own ad hoc programs to build the ICDC and to create local police forces to help engage the population and fight the mounting insurgency. Due to the scale and timeframe of the mission, and because the mission required building the entire set of institutions, processes, and units of a modern military, these efforts put the conventional forces of the US military in the lead for what had traditionally been a SOF mission. The results of the ISF program demonstrated the uncoordinated aspect of the overall effort and this led to a notably poor showing by both the NIA and the ICDC during the uprisings in April 2004.

The establishment of MNSTC-I in the late spring of 2004 began to place the Coalition’s program on a better foundation. The decision to create this new command was critical because it placed all of the programs involved in training, equipping, and advising the ISF under one headquarters. MNSTC-I was then able to secure a massive increase in the level of resources necessary to expand the scope of the program and to speed up the timeline for training and equipping the ISF to meet the worsening security situation in Iraq. This clear articulation of command brought unity to an effort that was divided when both the CPA and CJTF-7 had conducted their own independent programs. Assisting MNSTC-I was the realization among senior leaders in the US Government of the importance of the ISF effort and the huge commitment of money, equipment, and personnel required for the Coalition to be successful in this endeavor. Only with this commitment did MNSTC-I begin to create the training and logistics infrastructure
necessary for a modern and effective security establishment.

MNSTC-I, however, was not created until June 2004, more than a year after the fall of Saddam, and it took time for MNSTC-I leaders to organize their own systems to improve the performance of this program. American Soldiers charged with the task of training and advising the new Iraqi formations found their mission daunting. The Army went through several methods to find Soldiers to fill the ranks of the organizations involved in the train, equip, and advise missions. Army Reserve, National Guard, and Active Duty Soldiers struggled to perform these new missions in a complex security environment and often lacked the specific training and logistical support required to make their Iraqi units operationally effective. Cultural differences, as well, continued to contribute to the gap between American expectations and Iraqi unit performance that was in many American assessments less than adequate.

The ISF did score a number of notable successes, which demonstrated that despite shortcomings in the Coalition’s initial efforts to train the Iraqi military and police formations, these forces made progress in 2003 and 2004 toward the goal of securing Iraq. By the end of 2004 the ISF not only displayed greater perseverance in the face of terrorism, insurgency, and sectarian conflict, they improved their ability to operate with Coalition forces and, in a few cases, independently. Iraqi Army and National Guard units had fought well in major operations against concentrated insurgent forces in Samarra and Fallujah, actions that suggested when properly supported and commanded by competent leaders, the ISF had the capacity to defeat threats to their country’s security. Moreover, ISF operations during the elections of January 2005 demonstrated a capability and a willingness to provide their citizens with the opportunity for a new political future. This stands as the ISF’s greatest success during the difficult 18 months that followed the fall of Saddam.


Chapter 11. Training the Iraqi Security Forces

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