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Assessing The New Iraqi Army In Late 2006

File photo: Iraqi soldiers.
by Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
Washington (UPI) Oct 11, 2006
Iraq is already in a state of "limited civil war" and progress towards making its army viable is "faltering," a leading U.S. expert says. "Iraq is already in a state of limited civil war," wrote Anthony H. Cordesman, who holds the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a prominent Washington think tank, in an executive summary of his new report published last week and entitled "Iraqi Force Development and the Challenge of Civil War: Can Iraqi Forces do the Job?"

Cordesman wrote: "What began as a small resistance movement centered around loyalists to the Baath and Saddam Hussein has expanded to include neo-Salafi Sunni terrorism, become a broadly based Sunni insurgency, and now a broader sectarian and ethnic conflict."

Although the Bush administration remains publicly upbeat about the rapid development of Iraq's 300,000-man strong security forces, including an envisaged 10-division army, Cordesman wrote that the development of these security forces remains "slow or faltering."

Cordesman's report was not uniformly negative. He wrote that Iraq's new army "and some paramilitary National Police units are making real progress." But he then cautioned that "most units are severely undermanned, have critical problems in officer and NCO quality and leadership, are too lightly equipped and poorly facilitized, and many are Shiite or Kurdish dominated."

Because of these and other factors, the new Iraqi security forces "will, however, be highly dependent on U.S. and other MNF-I support well into 2008, and probably through 2010," Cordesman wrote. "Only a truly radical improvement in political conciliation could reduce this dependence, and the present drift towards added civil conflict could sharply increase it."

Iraq's new Ministry of Interior remains "very much a work in progress," the report said. It remains "poorly organized, with elements more loyal to Shiite and Kurdish parties than nation." The ministry was still plagued by "poor planning and fiscal control capability" and it still had "serious problems with corruption," the report said.

Cordesman noted that Iraq's National Police currently had a claimed strength of 24,400 men. However, its real manpower levels remained unknown, he wrote. "Some elements have been properly reorganized and are as effective as regular army units," he wrote. However, "most still present problems in terms of both loyalty and effectiveness."

The current official strength of Ministry of the Interior forces is now 27,510 trained and equipped men. However, there too, their real number remains unknown, Cordesman wrote. "Most elements, like the Border Police, are just acquiring proper training and have only light equipment and poor facilities; forces would have to remain in Iraq and carry the main burden of building security there for at least another two-and-a-quarter years and possibly for more than four years.

"Real-world Iraqi dependence on the present scale of U.S. and allied military support and advisory efforts will continue well into 2008 at the earliest and probably to 2010. Major U.S. and allied troop reductions need to be put on hold indefinitely," he wrote.

Cordesman therefore concluded: "There is no near term prospect that Iraqi force development will allow major reductions in MNF-I forces." The successful development of the Iraqi security forces "can only succeed if the MNF-I provides active combat support well into 2008 and major advisory and aid support through 2010," he stated. "Every element of ISF development still requires years of effort and support."

Source: United Press International

Related Links
Iraq: The first techonology war of the 21st century

Updated Iraq Survey Affirms Earlier Mortality Estimates
Baltimore MD (SPX) Oct 12, 2006
As many as 654,965 more Iraqis may have died since hostilities began in Iraq in March 2003 than would have been expected under pre-war conditions, according to a survey conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Al Mustansiriya University in Baghdad. The deaths from all causes--violent and non-violent--are over and above the estimated 143,000 deaths per year that occurred from all causes prior to the March 2003 invasion.







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