Training and Force Development in Iraq
By: Captain Matt Zalot, Joint Task Force – Iraq (JTF-I) Detachment Erbil Public Affairs Officer
Building capable and sustainable security forces in Iraq after the defeat of Daesh is one of the main goals of the Global Coalition, and Canada is playing a key part in this effort. Canadian Brigadier-General Steven Whelan is now leading the partner force development and the Iraqi train and equip mission in his capacity as CJ-7 Director of Training.
“The work of the CJ-7 is essentially a strategic ‘advise and assist’ role,” said Brigadier-General Whelan. “We fund the Iraq Train and Equip program to build and enable the Iraqi security forces.”
Concurrently, Brigadier-General Whelan serves as head of the Ministerial Liaison Team (MLT), which acts as a strategic link into the Government of Iraq at the ministry level and helps to define current and future strategy, materiel, and personnel requirements. Brigadier-General Whelan’ position ensures that “funds are spent in support of the Iraqi security forces, with the MLT harmonizing a number of different efforts.”
He takes over the reins from his Canadian colleague, Brigadier-General Dave Anderson, who was instrumental in shaping this Coalition capability.
“He built this organization from the ground up,” said Brigadier-General Whelan, referring to his predecessor. “Nothing existed before Brigadier-General Dave Anderson. He built a house with walls and a roof—we will make sure the foundation is solid and then we will furnish the house.”
This task, being complex, is not without its anticipated difficulties. The CJ-7 challenge is “trying to synchronize literally hundreds of agencies intent on doing good things.” This involves enabling effective lines of communication across organizations and avoiding duplication of effort, whenever possible.
Brigadier-General Whelan believes that the Coalition work he has seen has been first-class. “You have to admire an organization that can achieve these results while enabling a high degree of cooperation with so many contributing nations.” Furthermore, he said, “The Ministerial Liaison Team and its structure are merely a microcosm of these efforts.”
Anticipating being in theatre for at least a year, he is proud of Canada’s contribution to the anti-Daesh efforts. “The Canadian Armed Forces brings leadership to this harmonization effort, as part of the greater Coalition to defeat Daesh,” he said. Given his opportunity to shape the CJ-7 function and especially the direction of the MLT, Brigadier-General Whelan looks forward to helping the Iraqis consolidate their ongoing territorial gains and lay the foundation for a safe and secure environment once the conventional fighting is over.
Brig.-Gen. Whelan brings a wealth of professional experience to the CJ-7 and MLT functions. In addition to serving on a number of previous deployments, he has been a civil-military co-operation officer in Kabul, Afghanistan, and worked in partner force development during his time in the West Bank, with an emphasis on police forces and civil defence. This experience has an obvious resonance with the tasks at hand.
Recently, Canada renewed its military contribution to the Global Coalition against Daesh until March 31, 2019.
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