By Jim Garamone
WASHINGTON, Aug. 28, 2006 – Coalition training teams with Iraqi military units, police battalions and border guard units are making a tremendous difference in the performance and professionalism of the Iraqi security forces, said the commander of the Iraq Assistance Group today. Army Brig. Gen. Dana Pittard told the Pentagon press corps in a video teleconference from Iraq that Iraqi forces are well-equipped, but they do need help in sustainment.
Pittard confirmed that 100 members of an Iraqi battalion had refused to redeploy to Baghdad. The soldiers were part of the 2nd Battalion, 4th Brigade, 10th Iraqi Army Division, in Maysan in the south. "There were some soldiers ... that said that they would not deploy as a part of the operation," Pittard said. "A decision is going to be made whether or not that battalion will actually deploy."
This is part of the growing pains of the Iraqi security forces, he said. The Iraqi army now is a regionally recruited force. "The majority of this particular unit was Shiia, and ... the leadership of that unit and their soldiers felt like they were needed down there in Maysan in that province," he said. The Iraqi government will work on how to deal with the situation, and the coalition transition teams will support that, he said.
Hundreds of coalition transition teams are operating throughout Iraq. The 11-man units are embedded with their Iraqi units from the battalion through division level. Advisers also serve with the local police, the national police and the border guards. The coalition soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines work with their Iraqi counterparts to plan and execute operations.
But the effort goes farther. Coalition logistics personnel train up their Iraqi equivalents. Personnel specialists work with Iraqi trainees to teach them personnel procedures. Maintenance experts work with Iraqis to ensure the units' vehicles stay in condition for combat.
"Our major mission is to help develop and support the Iraqi security forces, and of course to advise them," Pittard said. "What we do as advisers is we take those Iraqi army units and advise them in the field. It's more of the execution phase." Logistics is a sore point in the Iraqi forces. "We are focusing on just basic sustainment: sustainment of fuel, sustainment of ammunition, their medical supplies and their maintenance," he said. "Those are the key areas that we're focusing on with the Iraqi security forces."
Pittard said he sees a long-term job for coalition training teams with the Iraqi forces. "U.S. forces will be here as long as the Iraqi government wants us here," he said. "But I'll tell you, ... after the majority of U.S. forces leave, we'll still see some level of advisory teams that'll still be here. In fact, I feel like we'll be the last men standing at the end of the U.S. presence here."