By ANTONIO CASTANEDA, Associated Press Writer
KHALDIYAH, Iraq - The troops on patrol in this city west of Baghdad are Iraqi, part of the U.S. strategy to hand over more responsibility to the new Iraqi military. But the ammo in their weapons and the fuel in their vehicles were delivered by the Americans.
U.S. commanders have identified the lack of an effective supply chain as a major weakness of Iraq's military, and until one is in place, the United States and its coalition partners cannot fully hand over security responsibilities.
"The biggest weakness that the Iraqi army has right now is logistics — where to get the stuff, how to get it. They just don't have it yet," said Marine Maj. Ted Wong of San Francisco, who helps train Iraqi soldiers in this sector 50 miles from Baghdad.
For example, the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Iraqi Division recently took over security responsibilities from American forces in most of this Sunni Arab city in volatile Anbar province.
But most of the supplies still come from a nearby American base — delivered by American convoys. Trucks that ferry Iraqi soldiers refuel at the U.S. base. Food for the Iraqi soldiers is provided by Western contractors — whose local offices are protected within the American compound.
Ammunition for the Iraqis comes from U.S. stocks, said Marine Col. Daniel Newell, who heads a team of advisers working with Iraqi soldiers.
"They don't have a logistics resupply system," said Col. Regis Cardiff, deputy commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 28th Infantry Division. "For the (Iraqi army) to be totally (independent) and for us to be out of battle space completely, they need to have a system."
For the moment, the Iraqis have few options other than the U.S. military. Civilian supply trucks are regularly targeted on main roads across Iraq, and few contractors are capable of shipping goods across the country without American assistance.
Although putting more Iraqi soldiers in the field reduces the dangers faced by American combat troops, U.S. soldiers running supply convoys to the Iraqis will be at risk.
The United States and the Iraqi government were both keen to get as many Iraqi soldiers in to action as quickly as possible without taking time to put in place a network of supply vehicles and warehouses.
"If the tail was coming behind the tooth, well, that was designed intentionally," said Newell, the Marine adviser. "You put all the trigger pullers out there first, which puts the burden on the U.S. to supply them."
Much of the blame for these failings is directed at Iraq's Defense Ministry. Iraqi company and battalion commanders frequently complain that their requests are ignored or overlooked by the ministry.
As a result, U.S. advisers attached to 3rd Brigade now say they monitor Iraqi requests for equipment to make sure their higher command receives and processes orders.
The U.S. command has also periodically alluded to such concerns. In a speech last week, Lt. Gen. John R. Vines, who left his post last month as the second-highest ranking general in Iraq, said progress would hinge on whether government ministries could supply the military and cut out corruption.
The problem is not only in Anbar province, where the entrenched insurgency has challenged development of the Iraqi army. U.S. trainers cited similar problems in the Iraqi brigade that covers western Diyala province north of Baghdad.
During a major U.S. offensive in October in the western city of Haditha, Marine supply trucks hauled in boxes of food, custom made to abide by Muslim dietary requirements, for hundreds of Iraqi troops.
Overall, the U.S. military has deemed only one Iraqi battalion, about 700 men, of being capable of resupplying itself and carrying out independent operations without any U.S. assistance.
A shortage of armored vehicles has also hampered Iraqi troops, prompting U.S. military advisers in the Khaldiyah area to recommend that Iraqi commanders rely on foot patrols vulnerable to roadside bombs that insurgents continue to plant in the area.
Iraqi soldiers occasionally use mismatching vehicles donated by foreign governments, ranging from South African personnel carriers to Pakistani jeeps, and many did not come with replacement parts.
A small team of U.S. contractors on a nearby base currently repairs those Iraqi trucks in use, advisers said.
"A lot of the equipment they should have, they don't. And even if they did have it, frankly, they wouldn't be able to maintain it," said Newell.
Few were willing to estimate when an Iraqi military apparatus would be ready to supply Iraqi troops, who now number over 200,000 men, according to U.S. military statistics.
"I couldn't guess. That's for the (Ministry of Defense) to push and build a system," said Cardiff, the deputy commander.
Yeah I read that article in todays paper. How do you think we supply them, do we buy from commerical companies like Wolf or do we buy surplus off former communist nations like Romania and others.
I imagine that is at least part of the reason we have a 'coalition of the willing'; that is, we make it fiscally less painful by buying their surplus ammo. The Iraqi army has gotten many of their 'new' AFV's and MBT's this way, since they are used to using and maintaining Eastern Bloc equipment. Sounds kinda sneaky, but everybody wins as far as I am concerned.
Everybody but us in the states that want our cheap ammo back
Fuck Iraq ! Let them use their oil money to buy ammo, or make it themselves
Hell, as far as I'm concerned, they have more than enough ammo in Iraq. Don't give me that "old / unusuable" bullshit, their ammo goes bang just fine !
This boils down to the same old "war / profit" underhanded shit that has went on since the beginning of time. We are now allowing the rest of the world to turn a profit on the war on terror. How convenient. Let the damn Iraqis fight with what they have, or what they can afford. There is NO need for us to financial support such a rich country. Iraq is dragging its feet because they want America to fight/fund this war for them. I say cut the purse-strings and get on with it.
America wants its cheap ammo back.... and we want it now, damnit
Don't blame the Iraqis! Its the fault of the US they don't have guns or ammo!
Remember the pics of US soldiers burning captured guns and ammo? The idiots in high command ordered all the stuff DESTROYED.
Old ammo? Forget that, its burned and destroyed ammo now! THEY CAN'T HELP IT! And the US bombs over Saddam's production facilities makes it hard for them to make their own. Saddam out of power means that Saddam's facilites become those of the Iraqis. But those facilities are rubble.
I support the war, I just hate the idiots high in the gov't that don't know what they are doing.
send them a few mill brass cases, some dillon 650's, and components. then they can "manufacture" their ammo! :)
How do you burn ammo??? Isn't that kind of dangerous?
Not really... yes it is, but much different than firing it. Basically, it becomes a firecracker. Without any support to the case, before the gunpowder can build significant pressure it just cracks open and pops. There are small fragments from the casing, and the bullet will go a few feet, but it really isn't too impressive.
Also, keep in mind, if it makes sense the US military high command won't do it. The soldiers are brave and highly intelligent- I saw a picture of a US soldier who had ammo supply problems, picked up a PPSh-41 and fought with that. He adapted and knew how to take care of his gun, and he knew it was a better use than destroying it. I fully support the soldiers and their efforts, they are just hindered by the idiots in charge.