By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
Jan. 17, 2007 – A plus-up of Iraqi soldiers is a component of President Bush's strategy to stabilize Iraq's capital city and parts of western Iraq, senior U.S. military officials said during a Baghdad news conference today. After conferring with top administration officials and senior Iraqi authorities, Bush last week announced a temporary increase, or surge, of about 21,000 U.S. soldiers and Marines to help dampen sectarian and insurgent violence in Iraq's capital city and parts of Anbar province in the western part of the country.
"This plan is different in that there is a strong political commitment from the government of Iraq," Navy Rear Adm. Mark I. Fox, acting Multinational Force Iraq spokesman, told reporters. "There is more Iraqi buy-in. The plan is Iraqi-conceived and Iraqi-led."
Training Iraqi military and police so they can ultimately assume responsibility for security in their country remains the essential U.S. task in Iraq, Fox said.
"This institutional training mission is a critical component of our strategy to assist the Iraqis in creating and maintaining a viable and professional military capability," Fox said.
Fox was accompanied by Army Brig. Gen. Terry Wolff, commander of the coalition military assistance training team that advises Iraqi army and navy force training. Wolff works for Army Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey, the commander of Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq. Plans are for all 10 Iraqi army divisions to come under direct Iraqi government control by June.
There are now about 327,000 trained and equipped Iraqi military members and police, Wolff said. The goal is to increase the Iraqi military from 135,000 to 155,000 members by the end of the year.
"The goal of this effort is to replenish the losses that have occurred within their formations," Wolff explained, and to bring up total Iraqi military strength to 110 percent.
Iraqi trainers with U.S. advisors are providing military instruction to new soldiers and sailors and senior and junior leaders at seven training sites located across the country, Wolff said. American advisors also are assisting the Iraqis in standing up their military logistics capabilities, Wolff said.
"This about putting in place the infrastructure to sustain their feeding, fueling, arming, fixing and maintaining of that force," Wolff said, to include the improvement of existing medical and supply depot facilities.
Fielding a reporter's concern that some Iraqi military units may be infiltrated by members of anti-coalition militia, Wolff said that Iraqi officials have been aggressive in addressing that issue. Suspect or incompetent leaders are removed, he said, while problem units are given remedial training.
"It's a combination of leadership and training," Wolff said. "Good leadership, good training tends to be the glue that holds units together. And so, where units perform poorly, invariably, you can go back to one of those two problems."
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