Training is what counter insurgency warfare is all about — training local forces to take over the fighting — and the linchpin of the American exit strategy.
But in reports recording their experiences in Iraq, advisors like Colonel Nicholas Demas said the training he received before leaving the U.S. "was a phenomenal waste of time … nearly irrelevant to the current situation" in Iraq.
Lt. Col. Paul Ciesinski said counterinsurgency was our most important mission in Iraq but "there was zero training provided on it."
Because of complaints like that, the army opened a new school at Fort Riley, Kan., to train the trainers. So far 500 have graduated with another 550 there now — a fraction of what's needed.
"The institutional army has not caught up ... with the challenges of counterinsurgency," said Lt. Col. Paul Yingling after he returned from Iraq last March.
Yingling took part in one of the highlights of the war — the retaking of the city of Tal Afar by 3,000 American and 8,000 Iraqi troops, a model for what commanders hoped would happen in other violent cities.
"At the end, the Iraqi police will be the senior partner and the Iraqi army will be the junior partner and the U.S. and the coalition forces will be out of here," says Col. Sean Mcfarland, commanding officer of the 1st Brigade.
Tal Afar proved "the most important thing we do in counter insurgency is building (Iraqi) security forces," Yingling said. "Yet (the army is) designed around the least important line of operations: combat operations."
And it's not just the army. Col. Joseph Disalvo said when he asked State Department officers to teach Iraqis the basics of city management, "they brought nothing to the fight. They were vastly inexperienced."
Army officers say they can double the number going through the school at Fort Riley, but admit they'll still be playing catch up. And commanders in Iraq are calling for even more trainers.