French trainers enhance Iraqi army's capacity
By Khalid al-Taie
France is playing an ongoing role in coalition efforts to raise the technical and combat capacity of the Iraqi army, which began during the army's battle with the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS).
A team of French military consultants, who are part of the French task force Monsabert, have been tasked with training members of the 6th Infantry Division, who will later on train their peers.
Monsabert is also engaged in a mentoring mission at the 6th Infantry Division headquarters.
"We have entered a fruitful and effective partnership with the French through their training delegation in Iraq," said 6th Infantry Division Commander Brig. Gen. Saad Mohsin Uraibi.
"The French trained our soldiers and officers in several areas, the most prominent of which is military engineering," he told Diyaruna, noting that training sessions are ongoing.
Training includes instruction in deactivating explosive ordnance, including car bombs and booby-trapped houses, he said.
French trainers are sharing their expertise in areas such as the medical evacuation of the wounded from the battlefield and the provision of first aid, Uraibi said.
Most training is focusing on physical and combat rehabilitation, however, which has helped boost the infantry troops' physical fitness "so as to endure the most difficult war zones", he said.
Soldiers are being taught to exercise a high level of professionalism in civilian areas, and are learning how to handle hostage situations and secure the release of hostages, he added.
Training also covers tactics related to military manoeuvres, he said.
The 6th Infantry Division has been receiving French support for three years, Uraibi said, and this "has only increased in pace with the war on ISIS".
"We are at an advanced level of joint collaboration with our French partners, with the primary goal of training our forces so they themselves can be trainers," he said. "We seek to train the largest number of soldiers."
"France is making a remarkable and effective contribution as part of the international coalition," Iraqi Ministry of Defence spokesman Brig. Gen. Tahseen al-Khafaji told Diyaruna.
"[The French] have supported our forces throughout the war on ISIS through training them on a variety of combat skills as well as armament and air support of military divisions," he said.
The ministry is determined to restructure the Iraqi army as part of a strategic plan that focuses on training as a high priority, al-Khafaji said.
The French "will have an important role in supporting our efforts, as they intend to support our troops and build their capacity and preparedness", he added.
"We need the expertise of the French army in many aspects, which include clearing our liberated cities from explosives left behind by ISIS, uncovering the terrorist group's hideouts, protecting the borders and building our soldiers' self sufficiency," he said.
"Our relationship with France is strong and there is mutual respect between both sides," al-Khafaji said.
Iraq and France have been engaged in "highly advanced" collaborative efforts, security expert Fadel Abu Ragheef told Diyaruna.
France continues to offer Iraqi forces combat training, he said, and the French air force helped to target ISIS locations during the battle against the extremists.
Collaboration between Iraq and France also extends to the field of intelligence, Abu Ragheef said, with both sides exchanging information that has led to the capture of dangerous elements in their respective countries.