Support: School for Advisors

December 13, 2006: The U.S. Army has instituted a 60 day training course for troops headed for duty as embedded advisors in the Iraqi security forces. Many of the 6,000 officers and senior NCOs to be trained are not combat troops, so they need more instruction on how to deal with life in a combat zone.

There were shorter, more informal, instructor courses provided in Iraq, over the last three years. That was mainly because most of the advisors used to date have been from the combat branches of the services. One thing combat troops know a lot about is training, because that's what they spend most of their time doing, especially in peacetime. But even in wartime, there's lots of training, and the senior troops (who get jobs as advisors) have plenty of experience as instructors. Many brigades and divisions in Iraq set up their own training programs for Iraqi units they were working with. This had an element of self-interest to it, for if the Americans were working with Iraqi troops, it was in everyone's interest that the Iraqis were as competent as possible. The new advisor program recognizes that the lack of qualified and experienced Iraqi leadership is going to take years to fix, even with American help. Without that help, you'll end up with the same dysfunctional system Saddam, and his predecessors, presided over. Iraq military leadership doesn't just need help, it need some serious reform.

The major change in the new advisor program is to put advisor teams at the company level. Previously, the 11 man advisor teams were only found at Iraqi battalion and brigade headquarters. Some of those advisors got down to the company (there are three companies in a battalion) and platoon (three of these in a company) level, to see what was happening (or not happening). But having advisors permanently attached to army and police companies means that a lot more Iraqis get access to experienced advisors a lot more frequently. In turn, the Americans are able to report back much more timely information about how the Iraqis are doing. It's already the case that American advisor reports provides a more accurate picture of how things are in the Iraqi army and police, than the Iraqi government gets (from reports passed on by Iraqi commanders, who are reluctant to report problems.)

The downside of all this is that many more Americans will be exposed to the risk of injury, and things like kidnapping. That's one reason why such a broad advisor program was not instituted earlier. Keeping American casualties down has always been a major, if quiet, guideline for all military decisions.

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