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TigerHawk posts a report on Lt. General David Petraeus' appearance at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School For Public and International Affairs. The speech received no notice in any other media as of this writing, and that's not surprising, given that a central topic of discussion was the failure of the media to report much of what was happening in Iraq during his latest tour there. The entire post is a must-read, and TigerHawk has done a great service in providing it.
A key comment:
The central theme of his talk, which was supported by lots of data and supporting anecdotes, was that there are a lot of myths about Iraq that need to be dispelled. One such myth is the claim that NATO has not been involved -- General Petraeus forcefully argued that it had been, particularly in the establishment of the military academy and training facilities, but that NATO's participation had been substantially ignored by the press.Indeed, though more correctly the American media has ignored it - as Agence France Presse did cover the story of the recent opening of a training center near Baghdad, although DefenseNews was one of the few American sources carry the story:
The United States hailed the launch of a new NATO training center for Iraqi forces on Sept. 27, saying the alliance had a key role to play in the insurgency-wracked nation.Although not noted by the General, another training facility recently opened in Iraq has also been ignored by media:
NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer inaugurated the headquarters of a training mission and a military academy in Iraq on Tuesday, the alliance?s first cooperative venture in the country.
?The United States and NATO are committed to supporting democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Iraq,? deputy U.S. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said as he congratulated Iraq and NATO on the opening of the center outside of Baghdad.
Since last year, the North Atlantic Treaty organization has helped train hundreds of Iraqi officers who lead the embattled country?s security forces.
The NATO staff college aims to train 910 senior officers each year, with some 500 more receiving instruction abroad.
In the U.S. Army, noncommissioned officers are known as the ?backbone of the Army,? and a group of these Soldiers has set up an academy to help the Iraqi army produce its own rigid corps of NCOs.And progress is being made:
The Iraqi NCO Academy here is a new training ground for Iraqi troops, and is the brainchild of U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Victor Martinez, sergeant major, 2nd Battalion, 8th Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash.
Upon arriving in country last fall, Martinez noticed the Iraqi NCO corps didn?t have a training academy. The first thing on his to do list was to change that.
Using a handful of specially selected NCOs from his subordinate units, Martinez and his cadre found a training area, barracks and time to devote to a much needed group of up and coming Iraqi leaders, he said.
?We started the academy in November with the intent to strengthen the Iraqi NCO corps,? he said.
The newly trained NCOs go back to their respective units upon graduating from the academy, with one exception. Select Iraqi NCOs have the opportunity to become part of the cadre.Major K has more:
The academy currently has eight Army personnel conducting training alongside a group of Iraqi sergeants. The Iraqi soldiers chosen to be part of the cadre were honor graduates from previous classes at the academy, said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Diego Alvarez, an academy instructor from the 98th Division, Rochester, N.Y.
?We?ve mentored three of the Iraqi cadre who are graduates of the NCO academy,? Alvarez said. ?We want them to take a proactive role so we can step back, and with more Iraqi cadre they can eventually run the academy themselves.?
When the Academy was first set up, SFC R. and the rest of the MiTT Team were teaching all of the courses. Now, the courses are taught exclusively by Iraqi NCO Instructors. Several of these instructors are female.It's not clear whether he's discussing the same facility though - and to be effective there should be several such schools throughout the country.
Both these schools are examples of forward progress - and to measure progress we return to TigerHawk's report:
The most impressive thing about the Iraqi units is how tenacious they have become, notwithstanding early reports that they would cut and run. According to General Patraeus, since the January elections, from which the Iraqi security forces ?took an enormous lift that still persists,? the Iraqi forces "have not run from a fight, they have not backed down."In fact, in my time in Iraq, the media was rife with stories of the failure of Iraqi security forces - their tendency to vanish when attacked by their foes. Such stories have been noticeably absent from reports for several months now - although questions about the overall readiness of the Iraqi Army are raised routinely.
Another quote from the General that brings to mind another now-vanished theme common to stories from Iraq a few months ago:
Another myth is that "the Iraqi forces have no armor." Coalition members from the former Communist bloc have contributed lots of armor compatible with legacy Iraqi experience, including 77 T-70 tanks from Hungary ("which are better than anything the Iraqis had under Saddam"). Iraqi tanks have been organized into an armored brigade which is responsible for securing the airport road ("Route Irish has been free of violence since the Iraqi armored brigade took it over").Those unfamiliar with the territory will miss the significance of that last line. Route Irish, aka the Airport Road links Baghdad Airport to the International Zone, and was rightfully notorious for the number of attacks that occurred there. A common theme in reports from Iraq was the story of any journalist's harrowing trip from the Zone to the Airport along that route - but such stories have vanished recently.
A final point from Princeton:
In General Petraeus' conception, the Transition Command has five missions:This is worth noting in that 1) it's right, and a realistic assessment, and 2) the sentiment is echoed in a quote from a junior officer from another unit in another recent story from Iraq:
To "help Iraqis." "We believed what TE Lawrence said: ?Do not try to do too much with your own hands. Better the Arabs do it tolerably than that you do it perfectly. It is their war, and you are to help them, not win it for them.?
"When people say it's horrible that you are training those Iraqi soldiers because they will never be as good as we are, they are missing the point," said Capt. Mike Whitney, commander of the 1-30th's Alpha Company. "No, the Iraqis will never be as good as we are, but they don't have to be. They just have to be better than anybody they face here."In a further sign of hope, note that that story is from the New York Times, and reflects a recent trend - more willingness to report good news from Iraq. So perhaps that battle is going a bit more favorably than the General is aware. Time will tell.
Okay, but what about the recent reports that only one Iraq battalion is up to snuff, as opposed to three just a while ago? What about the U.S. generals who once said they could draw down forces next year now saying that there will be no draw-down in 2006? Doesn't sound like progress on the ground.Posted by Wilson Kolb at October 2, 2005 11:10 PM
I'd be interested to know how many Level 1 units total exist outside of the U.S. Military and the IDF. I'm guessing the number is probably not very high.Posted by MaryAnn at October 2, 2005 11:23 PM
"Only 1 Battalion Up to Snuff"
The difference between a level 1, and a level 2 battalion is "Self Sustainment"
If a level 2 Battalion had to go out into the middle of the desert to fight, it would quickly run out of food,fuel,water and ammo. Thus rendering it useless.
However, a level two battalion can be quite effective if it a located near readily available supply's of food,water and fuel. Last I checked, there were plenty of Kabob Shops, Soft Drink stands and Gas Stations in all of Iraq's cities.
The level one issue will be an issue if US Troops completely withdraw. It is not an issue when discussing "Significant Troop Reductions".
Posted by Soldier's Dad at October 2, 2005 11:33 PM
Wilson, you didn't read the link.Posted by Greyhawk at October 3, 2005 12:17 AM
I actually remember quite a bit of reporting in the media about how NATO was training Iraqi troops. I specifically remember that the european countries agreed to train an Iraqi officer corps but not in Iraq. The Iraqis are flow to france, germany, etc..., trained, graduate and return to Iraq.
By the way, how do you feel about a draft for the american military? I recenty wrote about this topic on my blog.Posted by gaber at October 3, 2005 07:27 AM
I'll believe what an American soldier who is stationed there working directly with the Iraqis has to say ANY DAY over the media... You should, too, Wilson.Posted by Politics of a Patriot at October 3, 2005 05:01 PM
The problem is that the senior officers have no ability to be candid. By definition, in their public statements they are required to put the best face on things. As a result, their statements have to be taken with not just a grain of salt but a pound of it.Posted by Wilson Kolb at October 3, 2005 06:38 PM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(7) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)