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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Pentagon report: 90 percent of Iraq Army not self-sufficient

WASHINGTON — Despite five years of training and equipping, the Iraqi military is still heavily dependent on U.S. operational support.   

A Defense Department report said less than 10 percent of Iraq Army battalions were capable of planning and executing counter-insurgency operations, Middle East Newsline reported. The rest of the army combat battalions required anywhere from partial to significant support from the U.S. military and its coalition partners.

"There remains a critical reliance on coalition rotary wing assets and other enablers such as intelligence and close air and logistics support during operations," the Pentagon report, titled "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq," said.

The report, dated Jan. 9, presented a graph that showed that 17 out of 181 Iraq Army combat battalions were capable of "planning, executing and sustaining COIN [counter-insurgency] operations" as of Oct. 20, 2008. Another 99 battalions were deemed capable of planning, executing and sustaining such operations with "Iraqi or coalition support and enablers."

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Another 54 battalions were deemed as "partially capable" of conducting counter-insurgency operations with coalition units. Five battalions were said to be incapable of carrying out such missions.

The remaining 11 battalions remained in the planning stage, with half of them expected to begin operations in early 2009. In all, the army plans to deploy 208 battalions.

"The ISF continues to rely on coalition enablers, such as intelligence, signal, engineer, explosive ordnance, and close air support," the report, mandated by Congress every three months, said. "The quality of operational planning has shown some improvement, as ISF staffs are increasingly able to plan and conduct combined and basic joint operations, information operations, civil-military operations, and some post-conflict reconstruction activity."

The Pentagon said the Iraqi military and security forces continue to be plagued by an inadequate logistics infrastructure. The report said this has limited Iraqi operations and strategic planning.

"Logistical and sustainment capability remains a major area of concern and is essential for consistent ISF self-sufficiency," the report said.

The report said the military and security forces exceed 600,000 personnel, about two-thirds of them police. In 2009, the entire Iraqi security force was expected to grow to about 650,000, with the army comprising 14 divisions.

The Pentagon expressed disappointment over the coordination between the Iraqi military and the Defense Ministry. The report said despite the development of a joint headquarters, Iraq's command and control architecture "continues to be poorly defined, which inhibits planning, decision making, and the ability to execute coordinated operations at all levels."

"In addition, the MoD [Ministry of Defense] and IJF [Iraqi joint forces] staffs are highly centralized and have almost no authority for decision or action," the report said. "Senior Iraqi leaders have resisted publishing formal policy documents, which results in sluggish decisionmaking practices at all levels. The MoD leadership often disregards the requirements generated by its subordinate staffs and is resistant to tying capability requirements to national security documents."

The Pentagon envisioned continued Iraqi army reliance on the U.S.-led coalition. The report said Iraqi military operations in Amarah, Baghdad, Basra, Diyala and Mosul demonstrated the limitations of the force.

"These operations also underscored the continuing reliance on coalition support in the fields of logistics, fire support, close air support, communications, planning, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance," the report said. "The lack of a sustainment funding plan and a cumbersome centralized decision-making process fundamentally inhibit improvements in operational readiness and prolong MoD forces' reliance on coalition support."

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