Equipping the Iraq Security Force

Defense Today [$]– General Sees ‘Long, Hard Slog’ Ahead In Building Iraq Security Force

The U.S. general leading the effort to train and equip a new Iraqi military told legislators that he sees progress in fielding Iraqi units, but he warned that “equipment is not flowing fast enough” to the new security forces.

In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, Lt. Gen. David Petraeus repeated the same memorable phrase-“a long, hard slog”?that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld used in a much-publicized October 2003 memorandum to describe progress in the war on terror. “We’ve got to … keep our shoulder to the wheel, and keep pushing, because it is a long hard slog,” Petraeus said. “But again, I think we’re going to see the chain reaction begin that’s going to help push the development of the Iraqi security forces in the coming months.”

Speaking by video uplink from Iraq, Petraeus listed a number of recent achievements the coalition has seen in building a new Iraqi army. He said, for instance, that Iraqis now have a nascent special operations/commando force that is working with U.S. and coalition special operations forces. And he suggested that there might be an expansion of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, which is a paramilitary force drawn from local communities and political parties.

Iraqi forces?like their U.S. counterparts?need more and better gear. “Equipment is flowing; it’s not flowing fast enough yet,” Petraeus said. “But it is starting to come in.” Among the equipment that Iraqi forces need are flak vests, vehicles, heavy machine guns and uniforms. “We are working very hard to insure that the security forces do have the equipment that they need and that they’re not outgunned by the bad guys,” Petraeus said.

Petraeus, who commanded the 101st Airborne Division during the invasion of Iraq and oversaw the occupation of a large part of northern Iraq, recently returned to Iraq to head the Office of Security Transition.

Obviously, we want them in different uniforms to differentiate them from Saddam’s force but they could use existing weapons. One would think there would be plenty of machine guns laying around unused in Iraq, given that Saddam had one of the world’s largest armies. Frankly, there’s little excuse for an inadequate supply of uniforms, flak vests, and the like at this stage of the game. Those are readily available, off-the-shelf items that were obviously going to be needed.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.