By Navy Seaman William Selby
Special to American Forces Press Service
March 12, 2009 - Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq is assuming more of a support and advisory role as Iraq moves toward self-sufficiency, a U.S. military official in Iraq said yesterday. "The mission of the Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq is to help the Iraqi government ... take vital steps toward ensuring self-sufficiency during the critical transition from coalition- to Iraqi-led operations in support of the [U.S.-Iraq] security agreement," Navy Capt. William Couch, senior advisor for the Joint Headquarters Advisory Team, told bloggers and online journalists March 10 during a "DoD Live" bloggers roundtable.
As the Iraqi government assumes full responsibility for security, MNSTC-I operations are evolving as leaders support and advice the Iraqi Joint Headquarters.
"MNSTC-I works as advisors to the Iraqi Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Interior to help develop the Iraqi security force and to shape them into a well-trained and professional force to protect the people of Iraq," Couch explained.
Iraq's Defense Ministry and MNSTC-I are modifying Iraq's counterinsurgency force, as well.
"We're partnering with them to help them develop force generation ... that transitions from what is basically a counterinsurgency ... to a more capable self-defense force for external threats," Couch said.
Iraq is developing capabilities to provide self-sufficiency in the areas of logistics, resupply, infrastructure, development and maintenance, and intelligence gathering, he said.
In the past, if the Iraqis were understaffed in any given area, they would recruit more to fill the void, Couch said. Now, with the help of the Iraqi Joint Headquarters, they're taking a more proactive approach to force generation.
"They've been very proactive in terms of providing guidance, especially in the area of force generation," Couch said. "The Iraqis are working towards the capability of directing forces from one division to another division, to move personnel and people so that an understaffed division gets up to their authorized limits, as opposed to simply having to recruit more."
While the Iraqis are making strides in certain areas, Couch said, he recognizes that tough challenges still lie ahead.
"There are some challenges in terms of technology and communications," he said. "But they're putting systems and procedures in place to do that."
As the Iraqi Joint Headquarters sees greater stability in the internal security of Iraq, the Iraqi army is shifting some of its focus from internal security to external defense, which allows the Iraqi police to assume more responsibility.
"Our goal is to develop a self-reliant and effective headquarters that can command, generate and sustain Iraqi [forces] in accordance with the approved national military strategy," Couch said. "And it's been very rewarding for me to be here and help develop the capability for them so that they can stand on their own two feet ... with a democratically elected government."
(Navy Seaman William Selby serves with the Defense Media Activity's Emerging Media directorate.)