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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 United States Department of Defense (DOD) and US Central Command (CENTCOM) designed Operation IRAQI FREEDOM (OIF) to be a lightning strike that would seize Baghdad and quickly overthrow Saddam Hussein’s regime. This concept was the antithesis of US strategy in the European theater during World War II that employed the so-called “broad front” strategy to methodically annihilate Axis military forces. Thus, one of the expected outcomes of CENTCOM’s Operation COBRA II plan was that during combat operations Coalition forces would not destroy, or even capture, most Iraqi conventional military units. Using a combination of propaganda and combat operations to restrict Iraqi command and control capabilities and movement, the Coalition’s military planners sought to prevent Iraqi Army units from maneuvering freely, and even hoped that some of Saddam’s forces would remain in their barracks. This concept worked well and can be credited as a key part of the overall success of the decisive phase of OIF. Many units within Saddam’s army never offered more than token resistance to Coalition forces, and some remained on the sidelines during the short conventional combat phase of the campaign.

However, this successful strategy left the Coalition with a potential problem after the destruction of the regime. As a group, US and Coalition leaders believed that Iraq’s security forces would need to be reshaped after Saddam was overthrown. For a democratic Iraq to develop, Iraq’s military and security forces had to be reformed into a professional military force under civilian control instead of being used as an instrument of repression. Although planners at CENTCOM, the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA), and the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) recognized this requirement, the Coalition, overall, did not have a detailed, well-coordinated plan for the reconstruction of the ISF when the regime fell in April 2003.

During the 12 months that followed, the formal responsibility for creating new security forces in Iraq fell to the CPA. Initially, the CPA viewed this mission as the construction of a national, professional army that had no role in internal security. For the CPA, the refusal to give the new Iraqi Army internal security responsibilities was part of the larger long-term and methodical project aimed at altering the cultural legacy of the ISF. As the insurgency developed over the summer of 2003 and it became clear that the CPA plan did not meet the immediate security needs of the country, Coalition units under the aegis of Combined Joint Task Force–7 (CJTF-7) began spending considerable time and resources to build and employ their own local and regional security forces to fill the immediate requirements. Thus, for the US Army the training and advising of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) became another critical element in the new full spectrum campaign. The division of effort that evolved between the CPA and CJTF-7 did address the obvious security needs on the ground. However, it represented another example of the lack of unity of command and effort between the Coalition’s political authority and its military arm.

As a full-blown insurgency emerged in the fall of 2003, the creation of the ISF had arguably become the single most important operation in the Coalition’s campaign. Despite this fact, the Coalition was only able to achieve unity of command and effort in June 2004 when the CPA’s and CJTF-7’s efforts to train the ISF were brought under a single Coalition command, the Multi-National Security Transition Command–Iraq (MNSTC-I). Two important events marked the next stage of building and employing the ISF. The first came on 28 June 2004 when the Interim Iraqi Government (IIG) took control of the ISF after the CPA handed over sovereignty to the Iraqi people. Iraqi forces continued to operate under the tactical control of Multi-National Corps–Iraq (MNC-I), however, and the Coalition and MNSTC-I continued to train and advise the IIG. The second event was the symbolic and very real assumption of responsibility by the ISF for the provision of a safe and secure environment during the January 2005 Iraqi Constitutional Assembly elections. This chapter is the story of the transitions that led to this important accomplishment.

Chapter 11. Training the Iraqi Security Forces

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