Al-Kissik Base: Iraq cannot yet sustain
its army despite having managed to quell a violent insurgency,
US and local commanders said today, raising the prospect that
American troops will stay on beyond 2011.
US military advisers described myriad inefficiencies
and problems, from hospitals that lacked medics and dentists
to byzantine processes that must be followed to request spare
vehicle parts and other vital equipment.
"Tactically, they do well, but ... warfare is about
logistics," said Colonel Steven Apland, who heads a Stability
Transition Team that advises the Iraqi Army`s 3rd Division at
Al-Kissik Base, west of the northern city of Mosul.
"Their logistics systems are just, at this point, way
below what their tactical competence requires," he said, as US
forces ramped up an "advice and assist" mission in Iraq,
following the formal end of combat operations on Tuesday.
To illustrate his point, Apland held up his pen, and
related the complicated process that Iraqi soldiers must
follow to request a new box of such pens.
"I have to fill out this document in triplicate,
quadruplicate, and then I have to hand it to some major, and
he has to drive down to Baghdad to get it stamped ... and
provide a document for you to come back up here, two blocks
away, to actually release it (the supplies) to you," he said.
One of Apland`s deputies, Lieutenant Colonel Craig
Benson, later walked through a medical centre on the base and
pointed out how well-supplied it was.
But the centre`s lights were mostly off, because of a
power cut on a base that has a generator farm that Benson says
can provide sufficient capacity to power the base twice over.
"They have the equipment, they need the staff, and
they need their logistics systems," he said.
"(Iraqi) combat lifesavers that we try and train to
deal with a little bit of trauma on the battlefield have
combat lifesaver kits that have expired stuff," Benson added.
Lieutenant Colonel Salah al-Din, the head of one of
the base`s vehicle maintenance workshops, said many Iraqi
units also did not properly maintain their vehicles,
eventually leading to engine and transmissions failures.
"We tell them -- before you go on a mission, check the
vehicle, and after you come back from a mission, check the
vehicle. If there is a small problem, you can fix it. The big
problems, they start from the small problems," he said.
"Some units, they learn ... but some of them, they
don`t come, they forget us. When they have a broken engine,
they come to me," Salah al-Din added.