By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service
April 17, 2008 - In the past year, the Iraqi army has transformed into a national force that has deployed across the country in operations that show its increasing combat capabilities, a senior commander there said today. "There should be no mistake on the behalf of anyone that the Iraqi army is a national army," said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Robin Swan, commander of the Coalition Army Advisory Training Team. "Just over the past year, it has made a tremendous, tremendous impact in areas throughout Iraq. In as short as nine to 12 months ago, [it was unimaginable] that battalions and a division headquarters from al Anbar province would be utilized throughout ... Iraq. But that is exactly what has happened."
In a joint news conference with Gen. Babakir, the Iraqi army chief of staff, Swan cited recent successful deployments by Iraqi forces outside of their home provinces as signs of a growing, mobile, capable army.
"An entire division worth of soldiers deployed to Basra in less than five days. Any army in the world would find that type of deployment a very difficult one to do over the distances, ..." Swan said.
The general said that, together with Iraqi leaders, they are focused on the force generation, replenishment and sustainment of the Iraqi army.
He said the Iraqi army's rapid expansion will continue through the end of this year as the service moves toward 52 combat brigades and 13 Iraqi army divisions. Over the past six months, the Iraqi army has added five brigade combat teams and is in the process of adding two more that are in training now. Those battalions will be fielded this summer, Swan said.
Speaking on foreign military sales, Swan said the Iraqi ministries of Defense and Interior have pumped about $2.6 billion in the foreign military sales program since 2006. About $900 million in equipment and other items have been delivered to the Defense Ministry, and about $300 million to the Interior Ministry.
Swan said plans are to continue modernize forces within the Iraqi government's ability to provide funding. The force will be modernized in a sequenced plan that will increase the quality of the Iraqi forces over time.
"A lot of the equipment ... required by the Iraqi army is for both the internal security of the Iraqi population, as well as at some point in time being able to protect the territorial integrity of Iraq," Swan said.