During the second and third US presidential
debates, President George W Bush said, in talking about
US progress in Iraq, "We'll have 125,000 troops trained
by the end of this year."
Like so many other
things the Bush administration has said about Iraq, it
is untrue. And even if were true it would not be
sufficient to bring security and stability to Iraq.
First, by talking about "troops", Bush
was presumably referring to regular Iraqi military
forces. But as of late September the US and Iraqi
interim government were still debating the size and
composition of those forces. According to an analysis by
Anthony Cordesman of the Washington, DC-based Center
for Strategic and International Studies, the
Iraqi government wants to create heavy Iraqi forces and
two mechanized brigades and eventually mechanized
divisions. But such forces are not yet part of the program,
though US experience shows mechanized forces and armor are
essential to effective urban counterinsurgency and
Cordesman, large capable forces will not be on line
until late-December/late January at the earliest, and
this may take until the second or third quarter of 2005
to get to the point where Iraqis can take over most
missions. Currently the plan is for 27 battalions
trained with a total strength of 18,900 by the end of
That is the goal. But the reality is
significantly less. According to Pentagon figures as of
The Iraqi armed forces had a requirement for 98,366
personnel, but had only 62,795, or 64%.
About 12,700 of the 27,000-man army on hand - less
than 40% - had trained for a few weeks or months, 15,000
of the 27,000 had weapons, and only 1,700 of 2,200
vehicles needed available.
administration claims about the state of training is an
exercise in fantasy. According to Cordesman, Pentagon
figures exaggerate progress. His analysis notes:
There are no data on facilities, many of
which still lack the most basic equipment; the weapons
and equipment requirements lag badly behind current
plans to make forces heavier and sharply understate
the number of vehicles actually required; and many of
the deployed units are now of uncertain loyalty and
capability and are rated as such at the command level.
These units may now exceed half of the total manpower
On October 13, North
Atlantic Treaty Organization defense ministers meeting
in Romania pledged to speed the deployment of 300
trainers to Iraq by the end of the year, in addition to
the 50 now there, in order to field more Iraqi security
forces that can help safeguard the elections in January.
This largely consists of the creation of
a permanent training center at Ar-Rustamiya to prepare
mid-level and senior Iraqi security personnel. While an
important step, it means that the 300-man team will
essentially create an academy that cannot really
function until the end of the year or the beginning of
2005 and will not mean any additional troops that can
help ensure the security of the scheduled elections.
The Australian army has also had a small team of
training advisers working with the New Iraqi Army since
July 2003. In May 2004, the main training team was
deployed to Iraq with the major task of training an
Iraqi Army Brigade.
When one turns to security
and police forces the situation is also similar - 87,000
police or 64% - were on hand versus requirements of
135,000. Of these, 48,000 were untrained, 4,121 were in
training and 35,000 were trained.
not difficult to figure out why Iraq's security forces
lack manpower. They have become high-profile targets. At
least 127 were killed in June and July, with a total
body count of more than 700 since April 2003.
There is no one yet in the 4,800-man civil
intervention force. There are only 83 men in the planned
270-man emergency response units. The planned 32,000-man
Department of Border Enforcement claims 14,313 trained
and 440 in training, but according to Cordesman no real
training has taken place.
The training for the
Iraqi police ranges from three to eight weeks, but it is
often cut short, and often none at all has taken place.
The Pentagon reports that at least 40% of recruits have
no training at all.
According to a joint
analysis by the US-based groups Institute for Policy
Studies and Foreign Policy in Focus (IPS/FPIF), a major
flaw with the training of Iraqi security forces is that
US training programs have few standards. The US
Government Accounting Office reported just after the
"transition" of July 1 that the commanders had wide
latitude in terms of training police and did not
uniformly adopt the Transition Integration Program. They
were free to establish their own curriculum and
requirements for policies which varied in depth and
scope. Since the transition the State Department reports
that while they have 154,000 security forces "on hand",
only 96,000 have even met the minimal training
The IPS/FPIF analysis cited US
Major-General Paul D Eaton, formerly in charge of training
Iraqi police and military forces, who admitted to the
Associated Press that efforts to develop effective
leadership within Iraqi security forces "hasn't gone
well. We've had almost one year of no progress."
While the US Congress has appropriated US$2.9
billion for training and equipment, only $562 million
has been spent. Yet despite that failure to spend
previously appropriated funds, Bush, in what was seen as
an acknowledgement of serious problems with the training
program, sent a request to Congress in September for an
additional $3.5 billion for security to be diverted from
a senior analyst with the Washington-based British
American Security Information Council (BASIC), has a
wide background in arms control and national security
issues. The views expressed are his own.
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