By Navy Seaman William Selby
Special to American Forces Press Service
May 23, 2008 - Iraq's security forces should be manned to near capacity by the end of the year, a senior coalition official said yesterday. "Force generation has been the focus of our efforts and still really remains the focus of our efforts up to now," British army Brigadier Johnny Torrens-Spence, deputy commander of Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq, said in a teleconference with online journalists and bloggers.
Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq's job is to generate and sustain Iraqi security forces, not to be directly involved in combat operations, Torrens-Spence said.
"Our job is to help the Iraqis grow, ... sustain ... and develop their military forces," said Torrens-Spence. "Once grown and developed, in effect what we do is pass those forces across to the field commanders, and they then conduct operations on behalf of the fight."
Torrens-Spence said the command has come up with four conditions to help the Iraqi Interior and Defense ministries increase the capability of their security forces: generating more forces, developing the Iraqi forces' capability to operate independently, improving the institutional capability of the ministries, and continuing to focus on professionalism and minimizing sectarian trends.
"We've been very happy with the way [the force generation] has gone in general terms," he said.
The Iraqi army had 100,000 soldiers in January 2007, Torrens-Spence said. By the end of 2008, officials expect the Iraqi army will have grown to more than 200,000 soldiers, he said. The Iraqi army will have grown by 220 percent in two years, he added. Growth rates in the Iraqi police, navy, and air force have been equivalent to that of the army, Torrens-Spence said.
The rapid growth has caused some stresses and strains in other areas, Torrens-Spence acknowledged, but he said he believes that will end soon because of less focus on force generation.
"There's generally an acceptance that the raw growth in the security forces will start to tail off at the back end of this year, and we are already shifting our focus. ... We'll be focusing more on the second one of those four categories – growing enablers," he explained.
"A big priority now for us is developing the logistics capability, rather than the command and control, and developing the surveillance and target acquisition capability," he said. "The shift in focus [is] from just growing the force, into turning it into a more coherent force."
By focusing on the first two conditions, Torrens-Spence said, he believes the third condition will develop as a result.
"[The Iraqis'] budget is improving fast. ... Their strategic planning capability is also improving fast, and there are growing signs that [the interior and defense] ministries are turning into functioning institutions," he said.
Finally, he said, the professionalism condition could take generations of effort.
"The worst of the sectarian violence in the country has declined, we have seen increasing signs of improvements and reductions in the ministries," Torrens-Spence said. "In fact, I think the Ministry of Defense is leading the charge in this area. We now have an increasing, coherent inspector general, and internal procedures and regimens to manage aspects of nonprofessional behavior."
Torrens-Spence also explained that the money used in the war is very important to accomplishing and completing the mission.
"We are able to apply this money where it has a quick and immediate effect to accelerate Iraqi growth, [and] where it's needed to provide the maximum value for us and for the Iraqi military and police," he said. "So the money is valuable; we need to continue to use it, use it wisely, and I think it's fair to say, over time, less of it will be required."
(Navy MCSN William Selby works for the New Media branch of the Defense Media Activity.)