Buildup of Iraqi forces remains a U.S. priority

Friday, April 16, 2004

BAGHDAD The United States has maintained its program to increase the size of Iraq's security forces, despite their failure in the Shi'ite revolt.

U.S. officials said the training and deployment of Iraqi security forces and military continue to remain Washington's priorities. The officials said the Defense Department prefers to deploy ill-trained security officers rather than leave areas of Iraq lawless.

"The priority has been on the recruitment of the size that's necessary in order to have the sort of front-line resources that we need and to have the intelligence gathering that we need," Coalition Provisional Authority senior adviser Dan Senor said. "We want to move into a mode here where the Iraqis are increasingly playing the enforcer role and the coalition is playing the reinforcer role, and you can't have that unless you have the requisite number of individuals recruited, trained and deployed."

Officials have acknowledged the failure to properly equip Iraqi security forces with modern systems, Middle East Newsline reported. They said the Iraqi forces lack armor, vehicles and communications systems, which have hampered Iraqi operations and protection.

Senor said the focus of the U.S. military in Iraq was to recruit, train and deploy Iraqi forces. Further down on the list of priorities was the equipping of Iraqi troops.

"We believe they have the resources that they need," Senor said. "But we also recognize there's room for improvement, and we are constantly improving the situation."

"Our job is to make sure we have the right force posture with our coalition partners, that we have the right relationships with Iraqi security forces," Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Thursday. "And when I say Iraqi security forces, to me that we have continued to build up the equipping of the Iraqi security forces, that we continue to train Iraqi security forces."

At this point, officials said, equipment allocated to the Iraqi security forces was not expected to arrive in significant quantities before September 2004.

They said the Shi'ite revolt in Iraq has not led to an acceleration of deliveries.

In an address to the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies on Thursday, Sen. Joseph Biden, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said U.S. officials had warned the Bush administration in the summer of 2003 that the training and equipping of an Iraqi police force of 75,000 would take five years. He said the training and equipping of an Iraqi army of 40,000 would require three years.

"But the administration insisted on putting 200,000 Iraqis in uniform right away," Biden said. "We rushed people out the door. Now, fewer than 10 percent of the police and army have been fully trained. Virtually none are adequately equipped. While many have acted with incredible bravery, others abandoned their posts and some even took up arms against us."

The failure to equip Iraqi security forces has also angered Iraqi officials. So far, several Iraqi ministers have threatened to quit in connection with U.S. security policy. One of those who quit was Defense Minister Iyad Alawi, appointed to the post last week.

"We have failed in the contracting process to provide them with the equipment they need, the communications, the transportation, the weapons, and the protection," Anthony Cordesman, a former Pentagon official and CSIS senior fellow, said. "And there is at this point in time no date certain at which we will solve those problems. In many cases the contracting effort is not yet underway."

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

Print this Article Print this Article Email this article Email this article Subscribe to this Feature Free Headline Alerts

Search Worldwide Web Search Search WorldTrib Archives