February 12, 2005

Slow Joe Biden Strikes

Building up an armed force from scratch can take a generation. For basic soldiers it's much shorter, of course. But NCOs take longer than privates, officers still longer and ultimately, your generals can take that generation to grow and mature into their roles. Most people understand that. But even green troops that are inadequately trained can stand and fight. As a statistical matter, they're just less likely to do so. Most people understand that too. Apparently not Joe Biden. He believes that

The guard has taken heavy casualties, been plagued by high absenteeism -- the result of an effective intimidation campaign -- and been infiltrated by insurgents. At best, the guard can handle fixed-point security -- as it did with the police and army for last week's elections -- but only if it has heavy U.S. combat and logistical support.

The police and guard make up 94,000 of the 136,000 "trained and equipped" Iraqis. The army, border enforcement units and specialized forces make up the rest. Yet despite their courage few can operate independently against the insurgency. Their ability to take on other key missions, such as providing basic law and order, is unproven.

After more than a year of drift, the administration took a critical step in the right direction: It put Gen. David Petraeus in charge of the security training. He has added counterinsurgency to the police curriculum, emphasized leadership skills and building cohesive units, and developed special forces with much longer training times. As a result some Iraqis are starting to get the equipment, training and leadership skills they need to fight the insurgency. They include police commandos (about 5,000), special intervention forces (about 9,000), SWAT teams and other specialized forces (about 4,000). These forces total some 18,000 men.

But that is far short of the administration's 136,000 estimate. And of those 18,000, many are rookies with little experience. Indeed, in testimony Thursday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, senior administration officials couldn't say how many Iraqi forces can operate independently against the insurgency. That's why I believe the number of Iraqis prepared to take on the insurgency is somewhere between 4,000 and 18,000.

I did a long quote to provide full context but the bolded section is the money quote. The reason that administration officials couldn't say how many Iraqi forces can operate independently is that they, quite rightly, did not want to impugn the courage or honor of those Iraqi troops that would stand and fight and could stand and fight without the training wheels of US backup. We know this because in the past, the blogosphere has celebrated instances of Iraqi units calling in for US support in the form of more ammunition and asking the US military to stand back otherwise.

Senator Biden is apparently comfortable calling the vast bulk of the Iraqi armed forces incompetent and hinting at cowardice. That sort of confidence sapping analysis is simply not acceptable for a person in a position of power and responsibility. Shame on him.

Donald Rumsfeld gets it right

Many thousands of Iraqi security personnel are performing exceptionally, and a few examples are worth mentioning. On Election Day, Iraqi security forces stopped a total of eight suicide bombers across Iraq who were hoping to upset the democratic process and kill innocent people. As was widely reported, one Iraqi policeman tackled and drove a suicide bomber back 50 feet from a polling station screaming, "Let me save the people!" before the bomber's belt exploded, killing them both. In the lead-up to the elections, Kirkuk police and the 207th Iraqi Army Battalion raided eight terrorist safe houses, capturing more than 30 extremists. The 205th Iraqi Army Battalion independently planned and executed an operation in the town of Miqdadiyah, capturing six extremists. Three days later, after receiving tips from local citizens, the 205th captured another 70 extremists, a large cache of weapons and bomb-making material.

Many observers have focused critically on setbacks with respect to the Iraqi security forces. And over time, the performance of units has been somewhat mixed. Early on, in particular, some forces did not perform as well as hoped. But this is not without historical precedent. George Washington repeatedly expressed frustration with poorly trained troops, many of whom fled from battles. At one point, Washington threw down his hat, whipped fleeing soldiers with his riding crop, and muttered: "Are these the men with which I am to defend America?" They were; and he did. Americans won their battle for liberty because they were willing to take the risks and make the sacrifices that freedom requires. The Iraqis' performance last Sunday shows that they are ready to do the same. They deserve our respect for their courage, and not criticism from the safety of thousands of miles away.

Again, the bold is the money quote. Shame on Sen. Biden.

Posted by TMLutas at February 12, 2005 10:23 PM