Iraq army re­cruit­ment to hit mark, U.S. gen­eral says

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Rowan Scar­bor­ough

The gen­eral in charge of train­ing the much-needed Iraq army and po­lice said Dec. 19 that the fi­nal tar­get of 325,000 per­son­nel will be met be­fore the end of this month, with “dra­matic im­prove­ment” in per­for­mance en­vi­sioned by July.

“The sooner we can give Iraqis re­spon­si­bil­ity for the se­cu­rity of their own coun­try, the bet­ter off we’re gong to be,” said Army Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey.

His as­sess­ment comes as Pres­i­den­tBush­weigh­sop­tions­for­chang­ing strat­egy and tac­tics for 135,000 U.S. troops in Iraq as a surge of vi­o­lence threat­ens to drag parts of the coun­try into chaos.

Thes­trat­e­gytalkha­s­ex­pand­edto in­clude what the en­tire U.S. armed forces needs to con­tinue fight­ing in IraqandAfghanistan,whilekeep­ing its com­mit­ments around the globe. The Army has in­creased its ac­tive force by al­most 30,000 to more than 500,000. But the in­crease can be drawn back with­out con­gres­sional ap­proval.

Adding to “end strength,” as it is called in the yearly de­fense au­tho­riza­tion bill, would be the first ma­jor de­par­ture from the poli­cies of for­mer De­fense Sec­re­tary Don­ald H. Rums­feld, who re­sisted per­ma­nent in­creases.

White House press sec­re­tary Tony Snow said the pres­i­dent is con­sid­er­ing the idea of a tem­po­rary surge of troops to quell vi­o­lence in Iraq, but the pres­i­dent must first be con­vinced that there is a spe­cific mil­i­tary ob­jec­tive.

The linch­pin of any new strat­egy will con­tinue to rely heav­ily on the Iraqi Se­cu­rity Forces (ISF) to ma­ture and shoul­der more coun­terin­sur­gency mis­sions.

“I think the progress you’ll see among the le­git­i­mate Iraqi se­cu­rity forces here in the next six months will be dra­matic,” Gen. Dempsey told re­porters via a con­fer­ence call from Bagh­dad.

While the Army makes progress, the na­tional po­lice force is rid­dled with­cor­ruptof­fi­cers.Gen.Dempsey said about one-quar­ter of them needed to be weeded out. Its nine brigades are un­der­go­ing re-eval­u­a­tion and re­train­ing that in­cludes liede­tec­tor tests.

New De­fense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates vis­ited Iraq last week and heard from Gen. Dempsey and other top com­man­ders be­fore mak­ing fi­nal rec­om­men­da­tions to Mr. Bush.

Mr. Bush told The Wash­ing­ton Post in a story posted on its Web site on Dec. 19 that he has de­cided to in­crease ground forces in the Army and Marine Corps as a whole but pro­vided no specifics. Gen. Peter Schoomaker, Army chief of staff, toldCon­gresst­woweek­sagothatthe Army was near the break­ing point un­less new sol­diers were added.

“I’m in­clined to be­lieve that we do need to in­crease our troops — the Army, the Marines,” Mr. Bush told the Post. He said Mr. Gates is draw­ing up such plans.

Gen. Dempsey said that by June, all 10 Iraqi army di­vi­sions will be com­manded by Bagh­dad, not the U.S. They will also have re­ceived newar­mored­ve­hi­cles,weapon­sand he­li­copter­swith$1.5bil­lion­in­newly com­mit­ted Iraqi funds.

The gen­eral re­peat­edly men­tioned the need for a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion in Iraq, a theme re­peated by other com­man­ders in re­cent weeks as it ap­peared that coun­terin­sur­gency mis­sions alone will not stop the fight­ing.

“On the Sunni side and on the Shia side, make no mis­take about it: There’s a core of ex­trem­ists who have no de­sire for that po­lit­i­cal process in the mid­dle to work,” Gen. Dempsey said. “That’s not a large num­ber but, you know, it doesn’t take much to get three or four sui­cide bombers to drive into a mar­ket­place and kill 150 peo­ple.”

Gen. John Abizaid, the top com­man­der for Iraq, told Congress that hewantsmoreU.S.train­ersem­bed­ded with the ISF above the cur­rent 4,000. Gen. Dempsey en­dorsed that idea, but added he has rec­om­mended chang­ing the teams’ mis­sions so they do not pre­vent the Iraqis from tak­ing ac­tion on their own.

Dur­ing the heat of the bat­tle for Bagh­dad this sum­mer, as sec­tar­ian vi­o­lence raged, the U.S. re­quested two brigades of army troops, but the Iraqis only de­liv­ered two bat­tal­ions. Units re­fused to come to the cap­i­tal.

Gen. Dempsey said he in­ves­ti­gated “what went wrong” and found a num­ber of an­swers. The units did not feel they had been trained for ur­ban com­bat, and no one had con­sulted with the tribal and po­lit­i­cal lead­ers in those re­gions. Also, there was no per­son­nel at the front end to pre­pare them for the move and no one at the re­ceiv­ing end for in­doc­tri­na­tion.

“It was an in­dict­ment, frankly, on the train­ing pro­gram, and I take somere­spon­si­bil­i­ty­forthat,”he­said.

Now, there are bonuses paid to sol­diers re­de­ploy­ing out of home dis­tricts, he said.

As­so­ci­ated Press

Gen. Martin Dempsey hon­ored Iraqi po­lice­men for acts of brav­ery and sac­ri­fice at the be­gin­ning of the Iraq war. Train­ing Iraqis to take over the coun­try’s se­cu­rity is key to any change in U.S. strat­egy.

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