Academic journal article Military Review

Advising Iraqis: Building the Iraqi Army

Academic journal article Military Review

Advising Iraqis: Building the Iraqi Army

Article excerpt

IF AMERICA AGREES with President George W. Bush that failure in Iraq is not an option, then the adviser mission there will clearly be a long-term one. The new Iraqi Army (IA) will need years to become equal to the challenge posed by a persistent insurgent and terrorist threat, and U.S. support is essential to this growth. Having spent a year assigned to the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq (MNSTC-I) equipping and training a new Iraqi armored brigade, I offer some recommendations to future advisers as they take on the job of working with the IA to build a professional and competent fighting force.

This article draws on my experience as the senior adviser for the Coalition Military Assistance Training Team (CMATT) charged with assisting the 2d Armored Brigade, 9th Mechanized Division, based 15 miles north of Baghdad in Taji, Iraq. When my 10-man team arrived in August 2005, the brigade was just beginning to form. Equipped with the T-72 tank, the 2d Brigade was the only armored brigade in the IA. Over the next 11 months, my team, along with 4 other battalion-level teams, assisted in manning, equipping, training, and employing this growing military organization. At the end of my tour in June 2006, the 1700-man brigade had taken the lead in its area of responsibility. I share the following observations for future advisers.

First, appreciate the importance of the advisory mission and understand the enormity of the task at hand. Iraqi officers with whom I have spoken agree unanimously that a U.S. presence in Iraq is absolutely essential to prevent catastrophic collapse of the government and civil war. A vital element of this presence is the Iraqi Adviser Group (IAG), which is tasked to coach and guide the IA toward self-sufficiency. While the new Iraqi government struggles to become autonomous, there is just no competent institution other than the IA that can prevent anarchy. But the dismantling of the old IA in 2003 left little to reconstruct, so multi-national forces have been forced to reconstitute a new IA from scratch. The wisdom of the dissolution of the old army is not at issue here; it is the consequences of this decision that advisers must comprehend to appreciate the full scope of their challenge.

Next, make an effort to understand the Iraqi soldiers; cultivate a respect for their culture. Each American adviser starts with great credibility in terms of military expertise, and the Iraqis believe that we can do anything if we put our minds to it. With a measure of humility and cultural sensitivity, each adviser can use this perception to great advantage building the new Iraqi force.

Finally, understand that the relationship among the Iraqi unit, the advisers, and the partner unit can be contentious, so as you work with your Iraqi unit, foster your relationship with the Coalition partners as well. The Coalition is charged with building the IA to stand on its own so that eventually it can be self-sustaining. But it's tough to simultaneously conduct combat operations against insurgents while providing training opportunities for the Iraqis, and the friction among all the organizations involved can inhibit the Iraqi unit's growth.

The Adviser's Challenges

By disbanding the old IA, the United States accepted responsibility for replacing an institution that was both respected and feared throughout Iraq. Saddam could count on his army to maintain control against internal dissent, as evidenced by the effective suppression of large-scale rebellions in the north and south during the 1990s. Iron discipline was the norm under Saddam. The lowliest lieutenant could expect instant obedience and extreme deference from his soldiers. Today's army is very different. Unlike Saddam's, the new army serves the cause of freedom, and officers and soldiers alike are a bit confused about what this means.

Recruiting, retaining and accountability. One of the most critical tasks for the army is recruiting and retaining soldiers. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.