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Supporting Which Troops?

From the Worldwide Standard: The Democrats have effectively cut off funds for training and equipping Iraqi soldiers.

6:36 PM, Apr 23, 2007 • By BILL ROGGIO
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IN THE CONVENTIONAL template of reporting on Iraq, glossy, controversial headlines often fail to reflect the reality of the situation on the ground. Take the latest reporting by McClatchy Newspapers' Nancy A. Youssef concerning the purported shift of U.S. military power away from training Iraqi Security Forces and back toward stability operations. The Detroit Free Press titles the article "U.S. plan backs off training of Iraqis," with a subtitle of "Policy shift entrusts security to American troop buildup." The Kansas City Star leads with "In a reversal, U.S. reliance on Iraqi army is fading," and subtitles with "Training troops is no longer a priority, changing the role of American forces." Forget the fact that Youssef provides no evidence within the article to back up such bold assertions. She relies on vague or nonexistent quotes from unnamed Pentagon and Washington officials, as well as Defense Secretary Robert Gates' failure to mention training last Thursday, to support her unfounded claim. In fact, many of the named officials in her article refute her assertion.

The fact is that the U.S. and Iraqi government continue to push the training of additional Iraqi combat and support troops, and are funding a dramatic growth in the capabilities in the Iraqi Security Forces. The Congress' failure to pass the Fiscal Year 2007 (FY07) Supplemental Budget is the only thing holding up the growth and training of the Iraqi military. In the FY07 budget, Congress has inserted the demand for a date for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, a demand which has prompted President Bush to insist he will veto the legislation.

The decrease in the training of the Iraqi Security Forces that Youssef is detecting is the first effect of delaying the FY07 supplemental budget. The money to train the Iraqi units has dried up. While about 75 percent of the expansion of the Iraqi Security Forces is funded by the Iraqi government, this money is focused on equipping and training new combat units, including upgrading units to armored and mechanized divisions. The funds to train and equip over 33,000 Iraqi Army logistics, sustainment, maintenance, and support personnel comes from the U.S. FY07 supplemental budget.

Currently, the Iraqi Army has about 13,000 support personnel to sustain a 138,000 man force. The expansion of support personnel by 33,000 troops by the end of 2007 would provide the bare minimum support necessary for independent operations. The money to train the support units cannot be legally reappropriated from U.S. budgets to fund a foreign military equipment/training program, so the programs has stopped. This weakness in current Iraqi Security Forces structure is the focus of U.S. training in the "Year of Logistics."

It is highly unusual for U.S. generals to weigh in on disputes between the executive and legislative branches. The cut in funding for the training programming has caused U.S. generals to mention the situation no less than four times since the delay in the FY07 Supplemental Budget became a critical issue. "At the current moment, because of this lack of funding, MNSTC-I is unable to continue at the pace they were in the developmental process of the Iraqi security forces," Major General William Caldwell said in a recent press briefing. "It is starting to have some impact today, and will only have more of an impact over time."

Youssef's article also fails to note some very real and significant changes which are occurring with the structure and development of the Iraqi Army. The Army is expanding from 10 to 12 divisions. The current Iraqi Army has nine light infantry divisions and one mechanized division. This will expand to 12 divisions, with one armored division and two additional mechanized divisions, which will significantly increase the Army's mobility and striking power. To augment these new heavy divisions and to accelerate the motorization of the light infantry divisions, the Iraqi government is in the process of purchasing somewhere between 600 to 800 U.S. made M60 tanks and over 4,000 assorted armored personnel carriers.