The October 12 edition of This Week in Iraq reports on the progress of the Iraqi Security Forces. Their numbers have surpassed the 200,000, mark, with 106,112 serving under the Iraq Ministry of Interior and another 93,959 under the Ministry of Defense. The end state is projected to be 270,000 by the summer of 2006. Security Watchtower charts the progress.
The Coalition has turned over twenty seven Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) to Iraqi Security Forces. Most of the bases are located in the secure provinces of Iraq, and few have been turned over in the restive provinces of Anbar and Ninawa, the current focus of operations. This transition has freed up American troops to participate in the Anbar Campaign.
Iraqi units are now conducting over 25% of all security operations independently. Strategy Page has the breakdown of Iraqi Army divisions operating countrywide. There are ten divisions in the Iraqi Army at various stages of operational readiness, and each is participating in security operations throughout Iraq.
General Bob Scales (retired) has returned from a tour of Iraq and is optimistic about the future of the Iraqi Army. General Scales looks at the progress of the 9th Iraqi Mechanized Division, which is teamed up with the U.S. 1st Armor Division in raiding operations over the major road networks in the Baghdad area. The battalions of the 9th Iraqi Mechanized Division were built from scratch by the Iraqis themselves, They are likely at Level 2 or 3 status, which does not preclude them from fighting the insurgency. General Scales shares his views of the 9th Mech:
Boy, I got there, and I saw a unit that was only a year old. It was Iraq’s first mechanized unit. It hasn’t even been fully formed yet. It’s commanded by a General Bashar, who, a year ago, when they told to form the unit, he went out to an Iraqi junkyard, essentially a huge bone yard, if you will, and put together pieces of equipment to build 200 armored vehicles without any support from the United States, or American contractors, or the Iraqi government.
So the Iraqis themselves built this division. Seventy-five percent of this division is made up of veterans, of professional soldiers. I met the leadership. I met one brigade commander who had just come back from a firefight. He was in the hospital. And he came back with both of his hands bandaged just to have a chance to meet the Americans.
Embedded reporters Anna Badhken and Pamela Hess weigh in on the state of the Iraqi Security forces. Ms. Hess is with the troops of the 3rd Squadron, 7th U.S. Cavalry Regiment in Salman Pak, which lies in a dangerous region south of Baghdad. The Iraqi Ministry of Interior moved in forces last April, and with U.S. support, they are working to restore order. Ms. Badhken is in Tikrit, and discusses the status of units of the Iraqi army’s 4th division. In both cases, the Iraqi units are in the fight, but still are still reliant on U.S. forces to battle the insurgency. But the Iraqi Security forces are increasingly gaining the respect of the U.S. units serving with them, and most importantly, the respect of the local Iraqi citizens, which is improving their intelligence on the insurgency.
The mistakes being made in most media reporting on the Iraqi Security Forces are the assumptions that the Iraqi units can be quickly trained and immediately put into a position to handle security operations, and that “fully operational” units are required to provide for security. The building of the Iraqi Army and police forces is a long process, as creating experienced junior officers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs), the backbone of a professional army, requires time and patience. While these units might not be fully operational, they are clearly in the fight and are gaining valuable combat and leadership experience.
There is much work to be done, and the Iraqi Security Forces are only in their infancy. The progress being made at such an early stage in standing up the Iraqi Security Forces does not bode well for the prospects of the insurgency defeating the Iraqi government militarily.