By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
Nov. 16, 2007 - As Iraqi security forces become increasingly capable in the counterinsurgency fight, their leaders are looking to the future, too, and striving to build long-term institutional capabilities, a U.S. military officer supporting that effort told online journalists today. Navy Capt. David Pine, chief of staff for the Joint Headquarters Transition Team, said Iraq's defense and military leaders recognize the importance of developing institutional capacity so their forces can sustain themselves in accordance with their national military strategy.
The Joint Headquarters Transition Team, part of Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq, is providing advice, support and mentorship to help the Iraqi joint headquarters staff achieve that goal, Pine said.
The 50-person team is helping the Iraqis put into place policies, procedures and processes that will govern day-to-day operations within the headquarters, he said. This, in turn, will enable Iraq's leaders to focus their attention on longer-range efforts.
"Our goal and our objective is to help them with their execution of the near-term, close day-to-day things ... and to keep one eye on the longer-term target," Pine said.
The team is focusing much of its work on three major areas: logistics, maintenance and noncommissioned officer development.
Pine said the United States welcomes the Iraqi's recent decision to establish "base support units" that serve as support hubs for Iraqi forces. These new units will be collocated with training centers in each Iraqi division's operating area.
The plan will help streamline support efforts and bring together supply, maintenance and other support efforts directly in the division battle space where it's needed, he said.
Also promising, Pine said, is new military occupational skill training for Iraqi troops in non-combat specialties. Iraqi leaders "are seeing the value of diverting some of these new soldiers to support missions," Pine said. As a result, they're expanding the training base to ensure Iraqi troops have the necessary skills to carry out maintenance, intelligence, combat medic, food service and other support missions.
Meanwhile, Iraqi leaders are beginning to let go of longstanding cultural conventions to build a professional noncommissioned officer corps. "They don't hold their NCOs or their senior NCOs in the same esteem with which we do," Pine said. "And that's a hard thing to get your arms around after serving 25 years and knowing how important your senior enlisted leadership is, to come here and see that it's just not their way."
Pine said he's seeing changes in this regard, and his team is encouraging more that will help give more authority and responsibility to enlisted troops.
Noting that decentralized authority isn't generally accepted in the Iraqi culture, Pine said there's also an effort afoot to push more power from the joint headquarters level in Baghdad to operational unit levels. This will reduce paperwork bottlenecks at the headquarters and streamline many operations, he said.
While encouraging initiatives to build capacity within Iraq's joint headquarters and Iraqi security forces, Pine said, his team recognizes that Western ways aren't the only, or necessarily the best, way of getting things done.
"Sometimes the Iraqis do things for their own reasons, in their own ways, that can be just as effective and just as capable and get to the end state that we are all looking for," he said. "They just go about it differently. ... It may not be the way it was done back in your world, but it may be the way it works here."