Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Training isn't the answer- remember what the question is.

Last week a subcommitte on oversight and investigation for the House Armed Services Committee published a report about the inability of the U.S. armed forces to provide a good accounting of how many of the over 300,000 Iraqi army soldiers and policeman that have been trained are actually "operational". ( http://armedservices.house.gov/ report on 27 June 2007)

From my vantage point, they've got a lot right. There are some serious problems within the Iraqi army and police in their ability (and in some cases desire) to account fully for all of their people and equipment. As a result, the U.S. military also has a hard time with it- if we controlled them totally, we could easily account for them, but we're trying to train them to do things themselves, and thus the loss of full accountability with the full control. Likewise, in an assessment of their operational abilities, we'd have to be embedded to a much greater degree than we are now to be able to fully assess everything. The training readiness assessments in some cases are more valuable than others in getting an accurate picture as well.

Getting back to my title, though, I agree with a thesis presented by Felicetti (The Limits of Training in Iraqi Force Development, Gary Felicetti, Winter 2006-07, Parameters, 71-83.).

Training is appropriate in the case where someone doesn't necessarily know how to do something. It is my judgment in watching activities of police units from squads up to Brigade size, and in discussing it with others working with those units, that their problems have much less to do with training than they do with other concerns such as their desires and allegiances, the environments in which they operate, and their logistics structure or lack thereof. Many of their problems are more associated with culture and environment than they are with not knowing how to do something tactical like clearing a room or performing a cordon and search.

Felicetti then points out that such culture changes take time. Patience is not something that seems to be in great supply among the U.S. legislators. Legislators who during this weekend are interacting with constituents pointing out to them the tremendous costs in treasure and blood that are being exacted on our military.

Some even argue that where we need to place our efforts is in the children- educating them and also allowing them to be raised in an environment conducive to what we are hoping to accomplish with the Iraqi people in general. The current generations will be much more difficult to influence in terms of culture change, but the younger generations could be a better leverage point.

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