December 24, 2004

Iraqi Insurgency and Strengthening Military Forces -- REPORT

Iraqi Insurgency and Strengthening Military Forces

CSIS expert, Anthony Cordesman, published two new reports on Strengthening Iraqi Military and Security Forces and on The Developing Iraqi Insurgency: Status at End-2004 .

Executive Summary

There are five key elements to any kind of “victory in Iraq, both for the Iraqi people, and for the US and its Coalition allies:

o Establishing a pluralistic Iraqi government capable of both governing and providing security to the people of Iraq, and finding a new balance of political power acceptable to Arab Shi’ite, Arab Sunni, the Kurds, Turcomans, and other minorities. Must be capable of effective governance at the local, regional, and national level.

o Creating effective Iraqi military, security, and police forces capable of bringing security to the entire country, of eventually replacing all Coalition forces, and capable of conducting effective operations while winning the support of the vast majority of the Iraqi people.

o Providing effective aid, debt and reparations relief, and Iraqi economic reform efforts that – coupled to effective security -- move the nation back on the path to stable economic development where wealth and economic growth are distributed in ways that meet the needs of all of Iraq’s people.

o Developing a new national consensus that legitimizes Iraq’s post Saddam government and social structure, and that can find a “golden mean” between the different goals and expectations of its different ethnic and religious elements.

o Finding a new balance of relationships with Iraq’s neighbors that will ensure that they do not threaten Iraq, or interfere in its affairs, while making it clear that Iraq no longer poses a threat to any neighboring state. Building effective Iraqi military and security forces is only one of the elements necessary to implementing a successful strategy in Iraq: One that can meet both US strategic needs and the needs of the Iraqi people. It is, however, an element that is critical to the creation
of a legitimate government in Iraq, and to establishing the stability and security vital to Iraq’s political and economic development.

The report documents a tragic US failure to develop and implement such a strategy
during the first year of the US occupation in Iraq. It is a failure to understand the strategic situation in Iraq and the realities of Iraqi politics. It is a failure at every level to prepare for a coordinated US effort at nation building. It is a failure by the US military to prepare for the military aspects of stability operations, and by the US State Department to recognize the need to create effective police forces. It is a failure to react to the growing reality of the insurgency in Iraq and for the need for Iraqi military, security, and police forces that could be true partners in fighting that threat.

The end result was to leave many Iraqi forces without anything approaching adequate
organization, training, equipment, and facilities. For political and other reasons, the Administration, CPA, and US command emphasized quantity over quality to the point where unprepared Iraqis were sent out to die. The end result was far more of an abuse of the troops concerned than any shortfalls in providing suitable equipment to US forces.

The other side of this story, however, is a series of changes in the way the US is
preparing Iraqi forces that may well correct these mistakes and create the kind of Iraqi forces that are vital to both Iraq's future and any successful reductions in US forces and US withdrawals from Iraq. It is not clear that these steps can overcome the legacy of past neglect and failure, but they do offer serious hope if the Administration, the US Congress, and the US military fully recognize and support the US training mission and Iraq's evolving military, security, and police forces.

The Need for Specific Changes in US Policy and Actions

This report shows that US and the Iraqi government have made significant progress since the summer of 2004. Effective Iraqi forces are now taking the field and some have proven themselves in combat. If the US is to be properly effective in carrying out this mission, however, there is still much to be done. If Iraqi military, security, and police forces are to be created at anything like the levels of strength and competence that are required, the US needs to take -- or reinforce -- the following steps:

US Policy Priorities

• Accept the fact that success in Iraq is dependent on US ability to create effective Iraqi police, security, and counterinsurgency forces as soon as possible, and that this a top priority mission. US forces can win every clash and encounter and still decisively lose the war after the war.

• Make it fully clear to the Iraqi people and the world that the US recognizes that Iraqis must both replace US and Coalition forces in visibility and eventually take over almost all missions.
• Keep reiterating that the US will set no deadlines or fixed limits on its military effort, and will support Iraq until it is ready to take over the mission and the insurgents are largely defeated.
• Make it clear that the US and Britain will not maintain post insurgency bases in Iraq, and will stay only as long as the Iraqi government requests and needs their support.
• Accept the need for a true partnership with the Iraqis and for giving them the lead and ability to take command decisions at the national, regional, and local levels as soon as they are ready. Make nation building real.
• Accept the reality that the US cannot find proxies to do its work for it. NATO may provide token aid in training, but will not provide major aid or training on the required scale. Other countries may provide politically useful contingents, but US, British, and Iraqi forces must take all major action. Stop provoking a pointless confrontation within NATO over levels of troops and training aid that the US simply will not get. Concentrate on the mission at hand.1

Priorities for Iraqi Force Development

• Keep up constant pressure on the Iraqi government to improve its effectiveness at the central, regional, and local level in supporting Iraqi forces and in providing aid and governance efforts that match the deployment and mission priorities of the security and police forces. Push the Iraqi government towards unified and timely action, towards promoting competence and removing incompetent personnel.

• Prepare and execute a transition plan to help the new Iraqi government that emerges out of the January 30, 2005 elections understand the true security priorities in the country, and ensure it acts as effectively as possible in developing effective governance and efforts to create Iraqi forces.

• Resist US and Iraqi government efforts to rush force development in ways that emphasize quantity over quality, and continue the focus on leadership, creating effective units, and ensuring that training and equipment are adequate to the task.
• Focus on the importance of political security. Security for both Iraqi governance and Iraqi elections must come as soon and as much as possible from Iraqi forces. Iraqi forces will not be ready to undertake such missions though mid 2005 and probably well into 2006, but they must be given the highest possible visibility in the roles where they are most needed. They will not be ready for the January 30, 2005 election, but careful planning will be necessary to make them ready
for the Constitutional referendum, and full national election at the end of 2005.
• Create command, communications, and intelligence systems that can tie together the Iraqi, US, and British efforts; and that will give the new Iraqi government and forces the capability they need once the US leaves.
• Make the supporting economic aid effort as relevant to the counterinsurgency campaign aspossible, and link it to the development of Iraqi government and security activity effort in the field. The aid effort must become vastly more effective in insurgent and high threat areas. One of the most senior officers pointed out as early as mid-2003 that, “Dollars are more effective than bullets. Physical security is only a prelude to economic security.”
• Take a much harder look at the problems in Iraqi governance at the central, regional, and local level. Force the issue in ensuring suitable Iraqi government coordination, responsiveness. And action. Tie aid carefully to the reality of Iraqi government civil efforts to put government in the field and follow-up military action with effective governance.
• Carefully review US military doctrine and guidance in the field to ensure that Iraqi forces get full force protection from US commanders, and suitable support, and that USA forces actively worth with, and encourage, Iraqi units as they develop and deploy.
• Reexamine the present equipment and facilities program to see if it will given all elements of Iraqi forces the level of weapons, communications, protection, and armor necessary to function effectively in a terrorist/insurgent environment. Ensure a proper match between training, equipment, facilities, and US support in force protection.
• Provide full reporting on Iraqi casualties and not simply US and Coalition forces. Fully report on the Iraqi as well as the US role in press reports and briefings. Treat the Iraqis as true partners and give their sacrifices the recognition they deserve.

The Need for Credibility and Transparency

• Start talking honestly about the threat. Admit the scale of Iraqi Sunni insurgency efforts. Be honest about the scale and nature of the foreign threat, and the complex mix of groups involved, rather than placing too much emphasis on Al Qaeda. Provide objective reporting on the role of outside powers like Iran and Syria, without exaggeration.
• Provide public and honest weekly reporting. Use transparency to force the issues so no one can delay or hide a future lack of progress. Prove to the Iraqi people, and the American people and Congress that there is real and not simply cosmetic success.
• Provide honest data on the Iraqi training effort that distinguishes serious training from token training.
• Provide similar data on facilities and equipment. Map the areas where such aid has been fully provided, and Iraqi forces have taken over the mission. Substitute frankness and transparency for propaganda.
• Force accountability on the system. Ruthlessly demand that all contract terms be met, make it clear that contract disputes will not be tolerated, and take the trouble to fire any US military and federal employees who delay contract and aid efforts.
Many serious problems remain in every aspect of the Iraqi force development program,
but the more one considers the history of this program as described in this report, the more it is clear that pursuing the right program consistently and with the right resources can succeed.

The Broader Lessons for US Policy and Planning

At the same time, the analysis in this report shows that the US has broader lessons to learn. It is difficult to review the data in this report without concluding that the US failed the Iraqi people and the Iraqi forces it was trying to create for more than a year. These failures were partly failures driven by inexperience and by the wrong kinds of planning and doctrine.

The US military was unprepared at the senior command level for counterinsurgency, and especially for serious partnership and interoperability with the new Iraqi forces it was seeking to create. The civil aid effort was organized around creating the wrong kind of police forces for a kind of nation building that could only take place in a far more permissive environment. Creating effective police and security forces for high-risk environments is a mission for which the State Department and USAID are unprepared and which should be part of an integrated effort linking the creation of effective military, security, and police forces. No one who talked to the US advisors who served in the field from the earliest days of the advisory mission to the present can have anything other than respect for what they
tried to do, and for their deep concern for the forces they were training. The advisory teams saw the Iraqis as both partners and as people.
At higher levels, however, the US government and the US military were slow to react,
and focused on US forces and US priorities. The end result was that the US effectively exploited a situation where Iraqis had no economic choice other than to volunteer, and sent them unprepared into the field. The fact these forces then had failure after failure was inevitable, and the fact that some died as a result of US incompetence and neglect was the equivalent of bureaucratic murder. The men did not fail the system; the system failed the men.

The US now has every possible incentive to create effective Iraqi military, security, and police forces. This is the only practical way to "win" in Iraq, cut the size of US commitments, and establish a government the Iraqis see as legitimate. The US certainly understands this at the command level in Iraq and in MNSTC-I, and seems to now understand it at the policy and command level in Washington as well.
What is not clear is whether all the necessary resources are really being provided, and whether a comprehensive and realistic plan exists to ensure that Iraqi military, security, and police forces develop as they should. The problem also is not simply American.

Major problems have emerged in the inability of the Iraqi Interim Government to follow up on US and Iraqi military and security efforts and to establish effective governance in the field. The reprogramming of US aid to serve military and security interests is a vital start, but it is totally unclear that a broader plan exists to recast the US economic aid effort to achieve the security and stability that is a critical precondition to longer term aid efforts.
The US not only needs a workable strategy and plan for the development of Iraqi forces, it needs one that is integrated into an overall plan for every aspect of US military, advisory, and aid activity in Iraq. This is another key lesson of the US experience in both Afghanistan and Iraq. No one can ignore the ad hoc nature of day-to-day reality, but this is no excuse for not being able to tie all US government efforts together around some common Interagency effort and maintain a focus on a common plan and strategy.

Finally, the history of the US effort to create Iraqi forces is a warning that Americans at every level need to think about what alliance and interoperability really mean in creating allied forces for this kind of nation building and warfare. Iraq is only one example of how vital a role such forces must play in many forms of asymmetric warfare. What is equally clear is that American must understand that they have a moral and ethical responsibility to the forces they are creating, and are not simply creating a useful expedient. The only truly important force numbers in this report count men, not things or dollars.

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