By John J. Kruzel, American Forces Press ServiceAugust 31, 2007
WASHINGTON (American Forces Press Service, Aug. 31, 2007) - The general who oversees training for Iraq's security forces called the country a "mosaic," and said each of Iraq's regions poses unique challenges to security efforts.
"I think every one of the provinces could be rated as having places that are pretty difficult fights," Army Lt. Gen. James M. Dubik, commander of Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq, told military analysts during a conference call. "The country is not a one-size-fits-all, a one-description-fits-all. It's much more a mosaic."
Lt. Gen. Dubik dismissed "blanket assessments" that predict how long it will take Iraq's entire security force to function independently of coalition forces. "In my opinion, (such assessments) wouldn't be entirely accurate, because some Iraqi security forces right now are doing just fine in the lead," he said.
In northwestern Iraq, Ninewa province's proximity to Syria makes the region a popular destination for foreign fighters entering Iraq. There, Lt. Gen. Dubik said, a single coalition force battalion offers "a little bit of support" to the two Iraqi divisions shouldering the majority of operational responsibility.
The general said the coalition supplies more support to Iraqi forces in Baghdad, where mixed populations sometimes invite sectarian clashes, but that the ratio of Iraqi to coalition forces is higher in Babil province, south of the Iraqi capital.
Lt. Gen. Dubik said the Sunni-majority Anbar province in western Iraq is threatened primarily by a Sunni insurgency network with links to al Qaeda, while trouble in the oil-rich southern city of Basra generally stems from the Shiite majority there.
"So each province really has to be looked at independently," he said. "And each unit, whether it's police or army, I think, needs a special assessment."
Lt. Gen. Dubik said Iraq's army has a "skeletal structure" that the country's Defense Ministry will start to flesh out over the next few months, continuing through most of next year. The effort will include improvement of the Iraqis' maintenance and logistics abilities, the general said.
"Across the board, one of the weaknesses in the Iraqi army consists in the logistics and maintenance areas," he said. "My expectation is sometime in 2008 we'll start seeing Iraqi army units doing more and more of (their) own maintenance."
In a briefing earlier this month, Lt. Gen. Dubik discussed long-term military objectives for building Iraq's army, noting that raising and replenishing an army during a war and in the midst of a nascent government poses challenges.
"These are all incredibly hard things to do; it's hard enough to raise an army when people aren't shooting at you," he said. "But they're doing it, and they're fighting, and they're dying, and they're not running."
Though "huge problems" exist, especially a shortage of experienced Iraqi combat leaders, Lt. Gen. Dubik said he feels "relatively positive" on the army developments.
"When you grow an army as fast as we've grown this one, you can't produce leaders fast enough," he said. "You can't grow majors and lieutenant colonels and colonels in four years. You can grow good captains and lieutenants in four years, ... but it takes longer to build the field-grade officer."