Democrats & Liberals Archives

Basic Training

The new Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, was in Washington this week asking why the US wasn’t doing enough to train Iraqi security forces. The Bush administration now claims 165,000 troops and police have been fully trained (an apparent admission that last year’s claims of 210,000 trained personnel was bullshit), but independent analysts put the number closer to 20,000. Zebari is complaining that his country’s security forces look good on paper, but are poorly trained, led, and equipped.

"It's not the question of numbers, of charts," he explained, referring to the U.S. military's presentations on their efforts to train Iraqis. "It's really the quality of these forces. Is there leadership? Is there performance? Is there delegation of authority?"

"Definitely, the new army, the new police, need better equipment - at least better weaponry than the insurgents or the terrorists, and we think they could provide that." Zebari said of the Americans.

Yikes! I thought we were training and equipping Iraqis with all possible speed. What the hell have we been doing over there for the last two years? Lieutenant-Colonel James Corum (Ret.) provides the answer,

Early last year I went to Iraq with a small team of American officers to advise the Iraqi military on officer training. quickly became obvious that many of the Iraqi officers were looking for no more than a well-paid sinecure and eventual pension.

Still, there were some men who clearly wanted to help build a better Iraq, at great risk to themselves. And while they seemed smart and willing, they lacked even basic professional training. We decided that the best way to help them would be the Templer model [referring to Gen. Gerald Templer who beat the Communist insurgency in Malaya - AP]: sending dozens of the best men to the United States for training. On their return, these men could not only take command of military units but, equally important, could become the teaching staff for the new Iraqi military schools.

This is merely common sense, but at the time it was at odds with the overwhelming desire at the Pentagon to reduce the American troop commitment. As one American Army colonel in Iraq told me, "We'll train the Iraqi Army after the insurgency."

What the hell? President Bush says we're doing everything possible to quickly train and equip Iraqi security forces, and yet, the end of last year there were only two Iraqi officers at the 20-week Infantry Officers' Advanced Course at Fort Benning in Georgia and only one Iraqi officer was sent to the Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas last year.

Granted, it would cost the Pentagon $100 million per year to train the number of Iraqi officers Col. Corum believes is necessary to secure their own country, but if Rumsfeld can spend $100 million per year on a missile defense that may never be used (or even actually work), I think he can put a crowbar into the Pentagon's budget for training Iraqi officers.

Posted by American Pundit at June 3, 2005 4:21 AM