New Iraq Report: Iraqi Security Forces

September is the month of Iraq reports. The Government Accountability Office issued a poor report card to the Iraqi government Sept. 4, and Multinational Forces-Iraq Commander Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker will give Congress their progress reports early next week.

In the interim, we just received in our inbox a link to the just-released “Report of the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq.” The bipartisan commission, chaired by Ret. Marine Corps Gen. James Jones (former Supreme Allied Commander, Europe), was created in legislation in May and charged with examining progress in building Iraq’s security forces, which include both Iraqi national police and the Iraqi military.

Here are the report’s general conclusions, quoted from the executive summary (emphasis added):

The Commission finds that in general, the Iraqi Security Forces, military and police, have made uneven progress, but that there should be increasing improvement in both their readiness and their capability to provide for the internal security of Iraq. With regard to external dangers, the evidence indicates that the Iraqi Security Forces will not be able to secure Iraqi borders against conventional military threats in the near term.

While severely deficient in combat support and combat service support capabilities, the new Iraqi armed forces, especially the Army, show clear evidence of developing the baseline infrastructures that lead to the successful formation of a national defense capability. The Commission concurs with the view expressed by U.S., Coalition, and Iraqi experts that the Iraqi Army is capable of taking over an increasing amount of day-to-day combat responsibilities from Coalition forces. In any event, the ISF will be unable to fulfill their essential security responsibilities independently over the next 12-18 months.

In the aggregate, the Commission’s assessment ascribes better progress to the Iraqi Army and the Ministry of Defense and less to the Ministry of the Interior, whose dysfunction has hampered the police forces’ abilities to achieve the level of effectiveness vital to the security and stability of Iraq.

The Iraqi police are improving at the local level predominantly where the ethnic makeup of the population is relatively homogenous and the police are recruited from the local area. Police forces are hampered by corruption and dysfunction within the Ministry of Interior. In some areas, they have been vulnerable to infiltration, and they are often outmatched in leadership, training, tactics, equipment, and weapons by the terrorists, criminals, and the militias they must combat. The rate of improvement must be accelerated if the Iraqi police are to meet their essential security responsibilities.