Operation Iraqi Freedom:

DOD Assessment of Iraqi Security Forces' Units as Independent Not Clear Because ISF Support Capabilities Are Not Fully Developed

GAO-08-143R: Published: Nov 30, 2007. Publicly Released: Nov 30, 2007.

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Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq (MNSTC-I), which operates under Multi-National Forces-Iraq, leads the Coalition effort to train, equip, and organize the ISF. Previously, once Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) units were trained and equipped, operational responsibility for their employment was turned over to Multi-National Corps-Iraq. As of June 2007, the Iraqi Ground Forces Command has assumed operational control of 8 of the 10 extant Iraqi Army divisions, and the Ministry of Interior has assumed operational control of the National Police. Overall, the number of Iraqi military and police personnel the Coalition has trained and equipped increased from over 171,000 in July 2005 to about 359,600 in September 2007. The Iraqi Ministry of Defense forces consist of the Joint Headquarters; the Iraqi Ground Forces Command, which commands the Army and the Iraqi Special Operations Forces; the Air Force; and the Navy (including Marines). The Iraqi Ministry of Interior forces consist of the Iraqi Police Service, the National Police, the Directorate of Border Enforcement, and other, smaller forces. According to the September 2007 Department of Defense (DOD) report to Congress, as of September 3, 2007, the Coalition has trained approximately 165,400 Iraqi Ministry of Defense (MOD) personnel and 194,200 Iraqi Ministry of Interior (MOI) personnel, although there is currently no reliable data concerning how many of these personnel are still serving with the MOI. Moreover, in 2006 the Iraqi Prime Minister, with Coalition support, decided to expand the size of Iraq's security forces by possibly as much as 62,500 by the end of 2007. This expansion includes an increase in the size of extant Iraqi Army units that will bring them to 120 percent of authorized strength, an initiative to expand the overall size of the Iraqi Army from 10 to 13 divisions, and an initiative to increase the number of Iraqi police.

The MOD and MOI face significant challenges in developing their logistic, command and control, and intelligence capabilities. Two factors, in particular, have thwarted their development--the persistence of high levels of violence and sectarianism and a lack of ministerial capacity. As a result, the ability of both ministries to maintain and sustain their forces, provide effective command and control of their forces, and provide their forces with intelligence is undermined and cannot be accomplished without Coalition support. Furthermore, since these support capabilities have yet to be fully developed, DOD claims that ISF units are either "independent" or "fully independent" are confusing and misleading. Although we are not discounting DOD reports that there are some ISF units that are more capable than others from an operational standpoint, we do not find sufficient evidence for an assessment of "independent" or "fully independent" for any ISF unit. Moreover, without clarity regarding the criteria according to which ISF units are assessed as independent, especially with regard to their logistical, command and control, and intelligence capabilities, Congress cannot have clear visibility over DOD's role in assisting the ISF in becoming independent of Coalition support.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The term "independent" was removed from the Operational Readiness Assessment (ORA)Level 1 definition as the use of the terms "independent" and "fully independent" can cause confusion. In 2/07, the Multi-National Corps-Iraq (MNC-I, recognizing the limitations of the existing Transition Readiness Assessment metrics, added a new metric called "Operational Effectiveness." This measure allows the senior transition team advisor and the Iraqi contingent to provide a subjective assessment of a unit's ability to conduct operations. Concurrently, the assessment process was renamed Operational Readiness Assessment (ORA).

    Recommendation: In order to provide the Congress and other decision makers with a clear picture of ISF capabilities, DOD should clarify its use of the terms "independent" or "fully independent" as they relate to the assessed capabilities of ISF units, especially with regard to the logistical, command and control, and intelligence capabilities of those units.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to the DODIG: Although MNC-I modified the wording used to describe a level 1 unit in 2006, the metrics and process transition teams use to assess the Ministries of Defense and Interior units have not changed. The process is clearly defined in the MNC-I Transition Readiness Assessment Report Implementing Instructions Update. The instruction, which remains in place as guidance for the Operational Readiness Assessment process, defines the objective criteria used to determine capabilities and the subjective rating criteria defining effectiveness used by transition teams to apply to the conditions on the ground. The MNC-I Operational Readiness Assessment (ORA) Report Implementing Instructions Update was effective 12/15/07.

    Recommendation: In order to provide the Congress and other decision makers with a clear picture of ISF capabilities, DOD should clarify the process it uses to make this assessment.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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