Iraqis must improve communication to fight bomb networks
Stars and Stripes August 14, 2009
BAGHDAD — U.S. forces are preparing Iraqi troops and police to prevent bomb attacks without their help, but first they have to get Iraqi security forces to share information with each other.
Iraqis tend to be very controlling with information, said Cmdr. Jack Downes of the Multi-National Corps−Iraq’s Task Force Troy, which partners with Iraqi troops and police to help them counter bombings and networks.
“It’s even more than stove-piped, because stove-piped would mean it would only go up and down,” Downes said, referring to the flow of information. “It doesn’t even go up and down. It doesn’t go left, right or up or down without direct orders.”
U.S. officials are trying to lead by example, he said.
“We continue our partnerships at the tactical, operational and strategic level, and through those relationships we share information up and down and across the chain of command for them and demonstrate,” Downes said.
Right now, Iraqi anti-bomb efforts are divided between the interior and defense ministries, he said.
The Iraqi army bomb disposal technicians are fairly well-trained and equipped, he said.
“The only thing they lack is what the army lacks in general, a functioning, consistent logistics support tail and … the continual development of their skill sets and being able to adapt to the battlefield as the enemy’s tactics change,” he said.
The Iraqi police are not as far along, he said.
“As of this year, there was a plan to have at least one [police] counterexplosive team in every province,” he said. “That plan has yet to come to full fruition because of budgeting shortfalls and planning shortfalls.”
Before U.S. forces leave, officials want to make sure Iraqi police have all the equipment they need to do the job, he said.
With U.S. forces slated to leave Iraq by the end of 2011, Iraqi security forces will soon have to fight improvised explosive devices by themselves.
While bomb attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq have fallen, so-called high-profile attacks, mostly against civilians, have persisted. There are one to two such attacks every two days, said Col. Jack Pritchard, head of the Joint IED Defeat Organization’s Field Team Iraq.
He said every advisory brigade that comes to Iraq will have a special JIEDDO team advising it on how to help Iraqi security forces fight bomb-making networks. The first of those teams is already in Iraq, with the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, he said.
Based on feedback JIEDDO received, it decided to increase the size of the teams from eight people to between 10 and 12 people, and give the teams their own communications equipment so they can quickly transfer large files, such as pictures, he said.
The teams will include an intelligence and operations analyst, explosive ordnance disposal personnel and personnel to help with targeting efforts.
U.S. officials are figuring out how to share potentially sensitive information with Iraqi security forces, Pritchard said.
“There are ways to do that,” he said.