vendredi 19 octobre 2018

Interview - About the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service, with David M. Witty

As the tip of spear for the recent operations against the Islamic State, the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) was at the center of heavy battles, which was not without consequences for the CTS's capabilties. David M. Witty, a retired U.S. Army Special forces officer, with more than ten years living and working in the Middle East, has described in a recent report for the Washington Institue the recent past, present and the future of this specific unit. In a previous report, he had studied the period 2003 - 2014 for The Brookings Institution.
The CTS is a well-known unit for French military forces who participate in its training since March 2015 and have advised it during recent combat operations (Ramadi, Mosul...), as described in recent posts on this blog (see here and here, in French). David M. Witty recalls French participation, particularly in the specialized training provided by the French Army (with the Task Force Narvik) to Iraqi commandos in the "Secondary School" (after years of efforts in the "Primary School", for basic selection and training of commandos): "Most coalition training at the Academia [i.e.: the training school of the CTS] is not conducted by USSOF [i.e.: the U.S. Special Operations Forces] but by the other nationalities that are part of SOTC-I [i.e.: Special Operations Training Command - Iraq]. In particular, France has provided medical training, deep reconnaissance courses, and desert training, while Belgian instructors have taught the officer course and Polish forces were involved in training Defense Ministry members". He also indirectly raises a French specificity, the sending of French soldiers from conventional units to form foreign special units (maybe based on the experience abroad for such missions of French forces sent, issued from specialized units, as higly-trained recce units or higly-employed engineer sections): "At one point, a French mechanized infantry force, not French SOF, conducted training at the Academia, drawing resentment from CTS personnel. One future desire of the CTS is to be trained exclusively by U.S. and Australian SOF, with the latter included because it has capabilities similar to USSF", according to a former CTS advisor interviewed by the author. He kindly answered some of our questions to present this report, which is not without lessons for current and future advise & assist missions. Thank you Sir!
What are the main consequences of ICTS' transition from a highly specialized counter-terrorism force to a more conventional assault unit?

Iraq has lost a good portion of its counter terrorism capability at time when it is most needed. ISIS is conducting a new insurgency and using the same tactics its followed pre-2014. CTS needs to transition back to its purely counter terrorism focus, but this still has not happened for a large part of CTS in the ten months since Prime Minister Abadi declared ISIS as conventionally defeated. For example, the 2nd ISOF Brigade is acting as the garrison of Kirkuk City. Parts of the 3rd ISOF Brigade are acting as a reserve force against protests in the south. The CTS model is to have a battalion assigned to each province to act as a local CT force and track terrorist networks in each province.