By Kristen Noel
Special to American Forces Press Service
March 6, 2008 - Various enabling capabilities for Iraq's security forces must mature before the country is capable of handling internal and external threats without help, a senior military official said yesterday. The Iraqi government does not expect to be prepared to counter internal threats without coalition assistance before 2012, U.S. Air Force Col. Dean Clemons, military advisor to Iraqi Defense Minister Adul Kader, said in a teleconference with online journalists and "bloggers."
Clemons noted that in Capitol Hill testimony in January, Kader also said he believes Iraq won't be ready to independently defend against external threats until sometime between 2018 and 2020.
Enabling capabilities – such as training, logistics, maintenance support and aviation – need to mature before Iraq can be ready to defend itself alone, Clemons explained. Though development of these capabilities has been ongoing, the coalition and Iraqis have had to focus primarily on fulfilling the immediate need to stand up forces to fight insurgency, he said.
According to analysis of three studies – conducted separately by the Defense Ministry, the coalition, and an outside group – the Iraqi army will need to grow to between 600,000 and 650,000 members by the end of 2008 to be effective in the counterinsurgency fight, Clemons said.
"So, all the divisions and brigades ... are standing up immediately," he explained. "Then, you're seeing the move to the training element, to the logistics side, (and to) the base support units."
The development of advanced aviation capabilities for the Iraqi military is still far off, he said, due to the considerable number of years needed to acquire the proper intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms and support systems for such a program.
However, he said, the improved security and stability throughout the country in recent months has created favorable conditions for the Iraqi government to move forward with setting up long-term enabler processes.
A consensus now exists among all of the Iraqi government's ministries that "now is the time to strike on services, a process improvement, (and) establishment of everything from electricity to oil distribution," Clemons said. "I can tell you from personal experience ... that the pendulum has swung for a grander, more clear understanding of the needs and the requirement to (build capabilities)," he added.
Whether the help Iraq needs through 2012 and beyond will come from the United States, Clemons said, is something Americans will have to decide as a nation.
(Kristen Noel works for the New Media branch of the American Forces Information Service.)