Weapons and Training for Iraqi Security Forces
A recent objection to the conduct of the war raised by Marc Cooper
is that we are not training Iraqi security forces with US weapons. The central questions in this issue are availability of weapons and speed of training.
Providing weapons, ammunition, and parts for hundreds of thousands of troops and police is not a small task. One of the ways that the coalition partners were able to contribute to the effort in Iraq was providing weapons. The small arms used by Iraqi troops are NATO standard weapons provided by coalition partners from the former Warsaw Pact. Some of our allies use Warsaw Pact munitions because they used to belong and they have the capacity to produce their own armaments. Most of these weapons are durable, inexpensive, and in wide use around the world. There is an abundance of ammunition and parts available for these weapons.
The availability of weapons from Coalition partners is much greater mainly because the weapons procurement process the US must undergo is possibly the least dynamic in the industrialized world. Beyond the necessity for every weapons system to involve the maximum number of congressional districts, there also is a requirement to maintain an immense procurement empire in the Department of Defense. Purchasing new weapons from our allies and coalition partners was much faster. Quite simply, if we had been compelled to use US procurement to obtain weapons for the Iraqi security forces, we would probably still be waiting for them.
There has been raised the possibility of using the old weapons of the former regime military. Under the former regime, Iraqi soldiers in the field drank from the ditch while their officers had bottled water in the desert heat. The condition of the former regime's weapons reflected the quality of their leadership, execrable. It would have taken a tremendous amount of time, money, and effort to aggregate, inventory, and repair all those used weapons for reissue. Restoring hundreds of thousands of badly neglected battle rifles was a waste we avoided by purchasing high quality, inexpensive new weapons.
Beyond simply providing the weapons to be used, training is an immense hurdle to providing an effective fighting force. Iraq has a large number of veterans with at least some experience with Warsaw Pact equipment and it is far easier to develop mastery than retrain on a new systems. One of the hardest skills to teach is high order maintenance and repair, and it was faster and easier to train the new security forces with weapons they were familiar with.
The US weapons systems are also difficult and unforgiving in a lot of ways. The M-16 is a remarkably effective weapon series, but it is also legendarily difficult to maintain. While we could have taken the time to train the Iraqi security forces on the US weapons, not doing so saved time. By using a weapon system that was inexpensive, available, and easier to train with, Iraqi security forces were able to get into battle sooner and with greater skill. That speed and skill is saving Iraqi and American lives.