Iraqi army needs US help to sustain itself: Commanders
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Last Updated: Thursday, September 02, 2010, 20:41
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.


First Published: Thursday, September 02, 2010, 20:41

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