Monday, October 03, 2005

GEN Petraeus speaks at Princeton about Iraqi forces

Tigerhawk's coverage: GEN Petraeus speaks at Princeton. Excerpt:

In General Petraeus' conception, the Transition Command has five missions:

To "help Iraqis." "We believed what TE Lawrence said: “Do not try to do too much with your own hands. Better the Arabs do it tolerably than that you do it perfectly. It is their war, and you are to help them, not win it for them.”

To "organize" the Iraqi military. The task of building a functioning military and special police force is extremely complex, and the Iraqis are doing it with Coalition and NATO guidance. Iraq is doing its own "recruiting and vetting." We are helping them design the units, which includes the personnel and command structure of each unit from the platoon on up.

The organization of the training of the special Iraqi police had to be particularly original. We have "dramatically shifted" the police training from the Kosovo model. “Iraq is not a 9mm pistol world, it is an AK47 world.”

To equip the Iraqi military.

This is an enormous task. "I cannot overstate how big this mission is." More than 700,000 uniforms, 210,000 sets of body armor, hundreds of thousands of small arms, helmets, hundreds of million of rounds of ammunition, 20,000 vehicles and so forth have been distributed to Iraqi forces.

All these soldiers and equipment have been housed. We have built more than twenty facilities for the Iraqi military, including five large bases that can house an entire division, "each the size of Ft. Drum."

To train the Iraqi military.

Notwithstanding the huge size of Saddam's military, even experienced Iraqi officers did not know how to train. For example, they did not train with live ammunition because of shortages, and expressed wonder at American methods for teaching marksmanship. Historically, “the inshallah school of shooting” prevailed. Iraqi soldiers in combat would hold the weapon over their head, shoot wildly until the magazine was empty, and “inshallah -- meaning if God wills it -- you will hit something.”

To mentor Iraqi military and police leaders.

There are 115 Iraqi battalions in combat right now, and every single one of them has a ten man American training team. The American training team teaches the Iraqi officers how to lead and helps coordinate Coalition assistance in logistical matters and combat support. “A huge effort paying enormous dividends.”

So, what's the "bottom line up front?" Iraqi soldiers and special police are “very much in the fight,” as evidenced, “sadly,” by the casualties they have taken in combat, which are at least twice the American.

The most impressive thing about the Iraqi units is how tenacious they have become, notwithstanding early reports that they would cut and run. According to General Patraeus, since the January elections, from which the Iraqi security forces “took an enormous lift that still persists,” the Iraqi forces "have not run from a fight, they have not backed down." This strikes me, by the way, as enormously hopeful for the future of Iraq, the persistence of the counterinsurgency, and the power of democracy to motivate the fight against the war on terror.
- Eric

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