Tough love' for Iraqi Security Forces
August 26, 2009
Baghdad - Discussions between Multi-National Corps - Iraq teams from across the country addressed the transition of missions, bases and contracts to the Iraqi government based around a common theme - tough love for Iraqis as they take control of their country.
In an MNC-I conference to determine the direction of the Iraqi Security Forces in the next six months, teams addressed the need for personnel trained in mission-specific tasks and for Iraqis to take initiative in problem-solving and managing their own systems - specifically logistics and supply.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Manuel Rendon, the MNC-I logistics maintenance officer, said the Iraqis lean heavily on U.S. forces when problems surface.
"The time is now for tough love," Rendon said. "We've got to reach back and say, 'hey, how are you going to fix that problem''"
Col. Fredrick Brown, the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) operations officer, said the U.S. has given Iraqis what they want, but often not what they need. He directed the teams to teach Iraqis to maintain the systems U.S. forces put in place.
"Go back and figure out how you are going to sustain these systems," he said. "Otherwise you're setting them up for failure."
He said the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior need to work together in unity and cannot be disjointed if they are to succeed in the reduction of roughly 200 operating locations throughout Iraq to six Army Air bases in theater by September 2010.
Leaders said U.S. forces trained in mission-specific areas, not just assigned to them, would be an asset to helping Iraqis manage their own systems.
Teams said U.S. forces should stop trying to force Iraqis into American systems that do not fit well with Iraqi culture. The leaders said Americans struggle to function within Iraqi society.
Certain behaviors, such as the "In Shaa' Allah," or, if God wills it mentality, make Iraqis less inclined to plan than service members because they believe everything happens on God's schedule. This presents a socio-cultural challenge to troops training Iraqis to manage their own systems, said Col. John Abbatiello, the corps logistics director for ISF.
He said another socio-cultural issue, "wastah" - which essentially means a wealth of resources - pushes Iraqis to horde supplies because they believe wastah is an indicator of power.
He said Iraqis often assume corruption in all levels of power and therefore resort to self-serving strategies like wastah.
The Iraqis tend to prefer a paper system of record-keeping, which often frustrates U.S. forces trying to push them toward electronic systems although they lack Internet connections, Abbatiello said.
Poor record-keeping and storage led to a surplus of parts for vehicles that are no longer used in country or non-essential parts such as mud flaps, teams said. In other cases, Iraqis have parts, but no part numbers to determine which vehicles those parts belong to, they said.
The meeting focused on teaching Iraqis to plan one to three years ahead, how time and money relate, how to obtain goods, how functions relate to money and how to alleviate Iraqi force's dependence on U.S. troops.
Brown and others addressed the lack of unity among U.S. command, specifically between MOD and MOI that led to such disorganization. The lack of unity detracts from sustainment efforts, Brown said. The teams agreed to work toward improved relationships between senior leadership and the Iraqi prime minister.
Brig. Gen. Heidi Brown, commander of the responsible drawdown of the roughly 130,000 troops in Iraq to roughly 50,000 by August 2010, said the U.S. expectations for the ISF throughout the transition are huge and will require intense effort from all parties involved.
"As a friend and as an ally, we will never leave them alone," she said. "We have got to help them help themselves."