Friday, June 04, 2004


A fascinating article in today's New York Times (registration required, unfortunately) discusses the American creation of an elite Iraqi counterinsurgency force:

The new force, called the Iraqi National Task Force, is the most ambitious effort yet to fight the uprising using Iraqis, and it already has 1,000 soldiers, with plans to grow to 7,000.

The force is being specially trained and equipped to fight the insurgents on their own terms. All the recruits must swear an oath that they will fight any Iraqi adversary, and each unit has a mix of Sunnis, Shia and Kurds.

As the Times reported on Tuesday, the creation of this force is just one element of a broader strategy for allowing the Iraqis to play the primary role in handling security affairs. If this unit does live up to its potential, it would be a huge step towards achieving that goal. Obviously, we're still a long way from that point. Though as today's article notes, we're actually making good progress in that regard:

The task force is part of the push to get Iraqi security forces up and running before the United States transfers authority to an interim Iraqi government on June 30.

American advisers say they are pleased with the progress. The original goal for the police force was 85,000 officers; 92,000 have been hired. The border patrol is fully staffed at 17,000 officers, and so is the facility protection services, with 74,000 officers. The civil defense corps is at 25,000 members, with another 15,000 to go. The army is the furthest from its goal, with 7,000 soldiers out of the 35,000 intended.

Clearly, much remains to be done. Only a small portion of those 92,000 police, for example, are properly trained. Still, it's better to have a force in place and then train and equip it to a suitable level, then to have nothing at all. Iraqification is the only realistic strategy we have at this point. We have the military power to go anywhere in Iraq and utterly wipe out the insurgents. Unfortunately, the costs of doing so in terms of Iraqi public opinion would all but destroy our hopes of creating the stable, democratic Iraq which is our ultimate objective. Only if we come to be seen as allies fighting alongside a sovereign Iraq with its own security forces, and not as an occupier, can we fulfill this goal. The situation will be difficult over the next several months. It may well get worse before it gets better. It is vital that we show the patience and perseverance necessary to let this strategy play out and begin to produce results.


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