Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Progress Report

At the end of September, US military officials announced that one Iraqi battalion was able to operate independently of coalition forces. Previously, they had reported that three had been judged "Level 1" troops. ABC News reports on the new figures announced yesterday (Tuesday 15th Nov.).
Today's report from the Pentagon says only one battalion — about 700 Iraqi troops — has reached level one, meaning the soldiers can operate independently.
I should have called this post "No Progress Report". At least it isn't getting worse. The Pentagon are trying to spin this up, headlining the 200,000+ Iraqi police and army personnel trained to some other level. That's just not acceptable, I'm afraid. Before anyone accuses me of always looking at the bad news, I'll point out that the "Level 1" status is the only one which actually affects the ability of coalition troops to start to withdraw. The coalition's whole exit strategy is dependant on the number of Level 1 troops available. It really is the only number which matters. The other numbers reflect only the partially trustworthy and partially trained. Fans of the Star Wars series will know just how dangerous a combination that is. Seriously, having over 200,000 armed security bods of questionable loyalty in a highly unstable country is not something I'd be inclined to boast about.

Even Republicans are starting to worry. What's that you say? Mid-terms? Next year? Worried about your own sorry skins? How very noble.

Just tried to work out what this rate of progress implies in the longer term. It's truly frightening.

Let's give a little leeway and say that the training of Iraqi security forces started 2 years ago. It actually started, or certainly should have started before that but 2 years is easy to work with. In that 2 years, 700 bods have been fully trained. Let's assume for simplicity that Iraq needs 200,000 fully trained bods in total. Again, that's probably a bit generous but it'll do. At the current rate, how long would it take to fully train the required number?

700 bods every 2 years = 350 bods per year.
200,000 bods /350 bods per year = 571 years.
571 years - 2 years (for 700 bods already trained) = 569 year.
I accept that it's a very rough number, with lots of potential for error in all sorts of ways, but it does give some indication of the current rate of progress of the coalition exit strategy. Only another few hundred years and we'll be mostly home and dry.

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