Generation of Iraqi Combat Battalions

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

WHAT IT SHOWS: The number of Iraqi combat battalions, particularly those "capable of taking the lead," has steadily grown.

ANALYSIS: This chart uses imprecise language to suggest an improvement in the capability of Iraqi forces when there may well be little or no improvement.

Only a small sliver of the battalions, perhaps 10 or 12, are rated at the top category of operational readiness (green in the chart). But the diagram reaches part of the way into the group of third-level readiness battalions (orange in the chart) to achieve its total of "112 battalions in the lead."

By definition, none of those battalions should be capable -- and in his testimony, Petraeus acknowledged that even the best of these troops still need logistical assistance from the United States.

A draft Government Accountability Office report in September said that the number of Iraq army units capable of operating independently declined from 10 in March 2007 to six in August. The numbers were removed from the final report and are now classified.

In a November report, the GAO faulted the Pentagon for making "confusing and misleading" claims that any particular Iraqi unit is "independent." The GAO said there is not sufficient evidence that some units are more capable than others, given that the ability of the Interior and Defense 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."

-- Glenn Kessler

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