Friday, May 5, 2006

Iraqi security units are being held back from taking the lead in the counterinsurgency fight by a lack of proper equipment, among other issues, says a top U.S. commander.

“All Iraqi army units in [the north] are in the fight,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Thomas R. Turner II, who commands the 101st Airborne Division patrolling northern areas of Iraq. “Those that have not assumed an area of operations, it is generally due to the lack of equipment or specialized training, and those units are fighting alongside ours.”

Gen. Turner, speaking to reporters at the Pentagon via a video link, said the Iraqi police face the same shortfall.

“For partnering with U.S. forces, they are progressing rapidly,” Gen. Turner said. “As you would expect, they are plagued with the same administrative and logistical shortcomings as the army.”

His assessment dovetails with the findings of retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who reported last month that the Iraqi army is woefully short of arms and equipment.

Army units, Gen. McCaffrey wrote in a memo to his colleagues at West Point, “are very badly equipped with only a few light vehicles, small arms, most with body armor and one or two uniforms. They have almost no mortars, heavy machine guns, decent communications equipment, artillery, armor, or [air force] transport, helicopter and strike support.”

The U.S. has spent $8.7 billion of a budgeted $10 billion to create the Iraqi Security Force. It numbers about 250,000 and is slated to exceed 300,000.

Lt. Col. Michael Negard, spokesman for the training command in Iraq, said in an e-mail to The Washington Times that:

“Some equipment may not be cutting-edge or state of the art, but it is of suitable quality, it’s affordable, and it’s maintainable due to Iraqi knowledge of the systems. The Iraqis are developing a military capability to deter the current insurgency.

“The equipment and weapons system currently in the Iraqi inventory is suitable for the current threat it faces. Lastly, the Iraqi military has also developed a modernization plan that will allow the military to determine requirements and modernize their force in the out years.”

Said Gen. Turner, “The major inhibitor to independent operations is lack of equipment, their inability to sustain themselves and a lack of systems or policies in place to manage the organization.” He called the shortfall “just a natural timeline that is occurring here.” He said forces are due to receive armored vehicles next month.

By summer’s end, he expects two of the four Iraqi divisions in his sector to take the lead in fighting insurgents.

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