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Former US Iraqi Security Force Commander Sees Progress

  • Anthony Stokes

The former U.S. commander in charge of training Iraq's military said Monday progress is being made to create effective security forces, but more work is needed.

Lieutenant General David Petraeus spoke in Washington on the progress Iraqi security forces have made since June 2004, when he became the first commander of the Multi-National Security Transition Command in Iraq.

The general says one of the biggest challenges Iraq is facing is the ability to fight insurgents. "To defeat an insurgency requires more than just individual police, as important as they may be, it is units with cohesion, with organization, with a chain of command, with structure, and fully robust combat power that are needed to stand up against something as brutal as the insurgents in Iraq," he said.

As former head of the NATO Training Mission in Iraq, General Petraeus is one of the first people to assess the requirements for creating effective forces in both Iraq's Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior.

General Petraeus says more police and support units are still needed and Iraq's forces must be able to handle long-term responsibilities, such as paying contracts and purchasing equipment.

The general says progress can be measured in a number of ways, including the growing number of trained and equipped troops.

In the latest report, the Ministry of Interior has over 111-thousand people working in divisions like police, highway patrol, border enforcement and emergency response. Within the Ministry of Defense, the general says there are nearly 100 thousand members of the Air Force, Navy, Army and Special Operations.

He says training a unit takes between three and 10 weeks, depending on the branch of service.

Another measure of progress for units of security is their readiness to be fully independent without coalition support. Through a Transition Readiness Assessment, or TSA, the general says, a rank of one-to-four -- based on personnel, training, sustainability and leadership -- is given. One is the highest level of independence, while level two still maintains a little dependence on coalition forces.

"A level two unit, the reason this is so important, is because it is at this level that Iraqi units can take on their own area of operations, and therefore allow coalition forces to move elsewhere and eventually move home," he said.

Mr. Petraeus says the first test of Iraqi forces was the battle of Fallujah in November last year. In this operation, the general says the Iraqi forces were moving behind, or at best, with coalition forces, and tended to secure grounds that were already cleared by the coalition. He says in the second operation in the Tal Afar province in September of this year, Iraqi forces outnumbered coalition forces.

Mr. Petraeus, who now leads the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth, expressed hope that by assisting Iraq's Ministries of Defense and Interior now, they will be in the position to be self-reliant in the future.

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