The New York Times reports today
that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has plans to dispatch ret. Gen. Gary Luck to Iraq on a fact-finding mission in order to bring back a classified assessment of U.S. progress there.
At a meeting Thursday with his top military and civilian aides, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld instructed that General Luck look at all areas of the operation, identify any weaknesses and report back in a few weeks with a confidential assessment, senior defense officials said.
"He will have a very wide canvas to draw on," said Lawrence Di Rita, the Pentagon spokesman. Mr. Di Rita emphasized that Mr. Rumsfeld was very satisfied with his commanders in Iraq, but wanted to give them all the help they needed in assessing "the very dynamic situation."
General Luck, who was a senior adviser to Gen. Tommy R. Franks at his war-time headquarters in Qatar during the Iraq campaign in 2003 and knows the operation in Iraq well, will lead a small team of military specialists. A principal focus will be to address one of the biggest problems facing the military in Iraq today: how to train Iraqi soldiers and police officers to replace the American troops now securing the country. Commanders have expressed disappointment in the performance of many of the Iraqi forces.
And in a related story, the AP reported a couple of days ago
that the Army has decided to embed significantly more U.S. personnel in Iraqi units to help instill some backbone and professional military expertise in those military formations. The move comes at a time when efforts to train Iraqi security forces have languished, and in the wake of lackluster performance by Iraqi units in a litany of important engagements.
WASHINGTON (AP) The Pentagon is preparing to ''embed'' additional American military trainers with Iraqi security units to make them more effective in countering the persistent and violent insurgency, Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith said Tuesday. Together, these should be seen as good news stories.
"It is a matter of taking a new look, of reassessing assumptions," Feith said in an interview in which he described the performance of Iraqi units as mixed.
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Initially, after the overthrow of President Saddam Hussein's government, U.S.-led coalition forces took charge of security in Iraq.
At the same time, though, Americans trained Iraqi national guard and police officers and gradually "embedded" them in U.S. units, Feith said.
Now, he said, "in a flip side of what was done before," Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top U.S. commander in Iraq, is moving to embed U.S. "mentors" in Iraqi units.
Feith said he used the term "mentors" rather than advisers because it signifies a continuation of the training of Iraqi forces. "Once they are trained the mentor goes away," he said.
"The idea is this mentoring, this embedding of U.S. people in Iraqi units, will increase the effectiveness of the Iraqi units and provide an important capstone to their training,"' Feith said.
They reflect a growing willingness within the Pentagon to identify problems with the Iraq mission (for there are many), develop solutions, and implement those solutions. A number of individuals have suggested for some time that we expand the U.S. advisory mission to Iraqi forces. By doctrine, the mission of "foreign internal defense" is something that we use Special Forces and some civil affairs units for. But the mission in Iraq is far bigger than our SF/CA force structure, so we've used an ad hoc system of regular units to train Iraqi security forces. Apparently, that hasn't worked either. So now it's time to Americanize the Iraqi forces, as opposed to simply Iraqifying the war effort. (The latter can be roughly analogized to the Vietnamization effort that took place late in that war.) In any event, these two developments are positive. Assuming Gen. Luck can get the "ground truth" when he's in Iraq, and he's listened to, we may see more signs of improvement in the future. Hope spring eternal.