Reduction of the physical caliphate is a monumental military accomplishment but the fight against ISIS and violent extremism is far from over.
Election security in Iraq is one of the many key parts to achieving stability and ensuring a lasting defeat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the region. The 12 May 2018 Iraqi national elections were no exception. Tensions and turmoil were high, and election security was essential to winning the confidence of the Iraqi people in the election results and establishing regional stability. Despite the billions of dollars the United States spent since 2014 on training and equipping the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) for combat, U.S. forces could not spend a single U.S. dollar to train or equip local Iraqi police in election security or crowd control.
The fund Congress created to support the fight against ISIS no longer matches the mission. Since its 2014 inception, the Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) mission, with the Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF) Global Coalition leading the way, is the defeat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria and to “set conditions for follow-on operations to increase regional stability.” The ISF have now retaken most of the territory held by ISIS in Iraq, and major combat operations against the group have declined since early 2018. With the physical caliphate nearly defeated, the CJTF has shifted its focus from combat operations to preventing the resurgence of ISIS through regional stability operations. However, the funds appropriated to help the ISF and other qualifying groups to counter ISIS do not permit the CJTF to pursue vital stabilization and security efforts aimed at a lasting defeat of ISIS.
Congress has not authorized the Counter-ISIS Train and Equip Fund (CTEF)—the only U.S. appropriation available to train and equip foreign forces in Iraq and Syria—for this type of support. Instead, the CJTF may only use CTEF to support groups “participating, or preparing to participate in activities to counter” ISIS. This language significantly limits the groups the CJTF can support with CTEF to those directly combating ISIS. Commanders in the CJTF, along with their judge advocates, find funding stability missions problematic because of the limitation. Election security training is just one of the many examples of support the U.S.-led coalition is unable to perform using CTEF. Additional restrictions limit the CJTF’s counter-ISIS construction authority to “facility fortification and humane treatment” and limits all construction, repair, and renovation projects to $4 million per project and no more than $30 million in total per fiscal year, even for otherwise eligible groups. The appropriation also restricts the CJTF from using CTEF to support any groups who are primarily responsible for stability operations, like local police forces, and prevents the CJTF from transferring unused CTEF equipment from Iraq to Syria.
With the shift to stability operations, the groups and projects the CJTF can support with CTEF is shrinking dramatically. Most of these issues are due to the statutory construction of the CTEF appropriation. However, the Department of Defense’s (DoD) own Office of the General Counsel (OGC) interpretation of CTEF makes matters worse. This office’s opinion further restricts the use of CTEF beyond its plain language and limits support to operations resulting in a “kinetic” effect. This opinion effectively limits CTEF projects to those involving combat or training for combat.
Another concern in the near future is that the CJTF is not an enduring institution in Iraq, and stability operations take time. Because of this, the United States requires a long-term presence in Iraq to take responsibility for CTEF and the programs it funds. The Office of Security Cooperation, Iraq (OSC-I), a DoD organization nested within the Department of State (DoS) and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, is better suited to conduct long-term stability operations using CTEF. The DoS is also better suited for the diplomacy required to support the third-party organizations stability operations will require. Further, the OSC-I previously owned this mission in the recent past.
The CTEF appropriation, in its current form, lacks the ability and flexibility to adequately support the current and future OIR mission against ISIS. Therefore, Congress should amend CTEF’s purpose language to broaden its construction, repair, and renovation authority, and permit support to groups with stability operation missions. Until then, the OGC should modify its opinion limiting CTEF to “kinetic” operations and, instead, broadly interpret the term “counter ISIS” to include stability operations designed to prevent the resurgence of ISIS. The OGC should then issue formal guidance on the use of CTEF. Finally, once ISF combat operations against ISIS cease and the CJTF dissolves, the ISF train and equip mission for stability operations should transfer from the CJTF to the OSC-I.
This article discusses the background of OIR, the evolution of the train and equip funds used by OIR commanders, and an overview of the issues with CTEF in OIR today. This article then compares and contrasts alternate sources of training and equipping foreign security forces and, ultimately, proposes a solution for matching CTEF with the current OIR mission. The mission in Iraq is the lasting defeat of ISIS. A lasting defeat requires stability operations in order to prevent the group’s resurgence. Until CTEF evolves, it will veer further off course from the mark Congress originally intended, and the CJTF will continue to fight with one hand tied behind its back.
II. The Evolution of CTEF and OIR
After eight years of the U.S. military’s presence in Iraq, and mounting political pressure both at home and abroad, President Barack Obama withdrew U.S. military forces from the country in December 2011. The withdrawal left a fragile Iraqi government in Baghdad, already grappling with sectarian and political infighting. The Government of Iraq (GoI) was a fledgling government with tenuous control over its territory and its identity in the region. Within days of the U.S. departure, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, issued an arrest warrant for his Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashimi. This sparked the Sunni political block, Iraqiya, to leave parliament in protest. In the months that followed, the three major factions in Iraq—Shia, Sunni, and Kurd—dove deeper into sectarian conflict and political hard line divisions.
A. The Rise of ISIS
In April 2013, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi formed ISIS, a fundamentalist Sunni Islamic militant group. At the time, al-Baghdadi was part of al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), and his declaration separated ISIS from those original affiliations. Two events sparked the formation of ISIS: the United States’ withdrawal from Iraq and “the unanticipated full-scale insurrection against Bashar al-Assad in Syria in the context of the Arab Spring.”
In 2012 and 2013, ISIS began capturing and holding territory throughout Iraq and Syria. Then, in June 2014, ISIS gained considerable strength and resources when “about 800 to 1,000 ISIS fighters took [Mosul, a] city of two million people [and] Iraqi forces comprising two divisions of approximately 30,000 soldiers fled after initial skirmishes.” Soon after, ISIS expanded and gained control of vast areas throughout northern Iraq. They captured Tikrit in June 2014, the Mosul Dam in August 2014, and Ramadi in May 2015. This expansion moved further south without resistance, and ISIS became a legitimate threat to Baghdad—the center of the Iraqi government. The GoI, facing a threat it could not control, requested the United States return to Iraq and assist in its defense against ISIS. On 22 June 2014, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Iraq approved an exchange of diplomatic notes between the United States and Iraq, outlining the conditions for a return of U.S. forces into Iraq.
B. The OIR Mission
In August 2014, the United States returned to Iraq to defeat ISIS and began supporting the ISF through air strikes against ISIS positions and building an international coalition. The United States named the mission against ISIS “Operation Inherent Resolve” (OIR). On 17 October 2014, the United States established a multi-nation CJTF under the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) combatant command to formally head the operation. The CJTF currently contains seventy-four partner nations and five international organizations.
1. By, With, and Through
The U.S. mission in returning to Iraq was—and continues to be—the defeat of ISIS (D-ISIS) “by, with, and through” the GoI and its security forces. Stated more broadly, the CJTF mission is the defeat of “ISIS in designated areas of Iraq and Syria and [to set] conditions for follow-on operations to increase regional stability.”
In practical terms, working “by, with, and through” means neither the United States nor the CJTF are the lead in the fight. In all Iraqi operations, the GoI and the ISF lead the fighting, and the CJTF works to support them. To accomplish its D-ISIS objective, the CJTF employs various combinations of advise, assist, accompany, and enable (A3E) missions with the ISF. One of the primary means of supporting the GoI is through training and equipping the ISF at various building partner capacity (BPC) sites.
2. The Fight Against ISIS
According to the Coalition narrative, the CJTF must accomplish two goals to defeat ISIS. First, the ISF must defeat the physical ISIS “caliphate.” This consists of conventional warfare and keeping ISIS from holding territory. Second, the CJTF must “purs[ue] the lasting defeat of the terrorist organization.” Here, the ISF and the Coalition works to prevent the resurgence of ISIS in the future. Unless and until ISIS is dismantled and incapable of reforming, it is not truly defeated. Iraq also requires regional stability to prevent the resurgence of ISIS. This second prong requires the United States and its partners to meaningfully combat ISIS where it derives its strength—in the vacuum created by regional instability and fear.
Beginning in 2015, with the help of the Coalition, the ISF began effectively fighting and taking territory back from ISIS. The ISF regained control over Tikrit in March 2015, Ramadi in February 2016, Fallujah in June 2016, Mosul in July 2017, Tal Afar in August 2017, and Hawijah in October 2017. These successes are largely due to the now-increased fighting ability and capacity of the ISF. The Iraq Train and Equip Fund (ITEF) and CTEF were instrumental in providing the ISF with these capabilities.
3. The Current Fight
The strides made by the ISF came much more quickly than the Coalition planners had predicted. In February 2018, “ISIS ha[d] lost about 98 percent of the territory it once held in Iraq and Syria” and the CJTF announced a “shift in focus as [the] Iraq Campaign progresses.” With the conventional fight now waning, the CJTF is shifting its focus to its second goal—the lasting defeat of ISIS through stability operations. This phase, also known as “consolidating gains,” is the current focus of the CJTF. Consolidating gains has three objectives: (1) to attack the remnants of ISIS to prevent its ability to develop an insurgency; (2) to provide security for diplomatic, economic, and informational activity; and (3) to transition from offensive military operations to security functions (policing and border control).
Congress and CENTCOM agree that wide area security and stability operations are vital to “consolidate[ing] gains [made by the Coalition and the ISF], hold[ing] territory, and protect[ing] infrastructure from ISIS and its affiliates in an effort to deal a lasting defeat to ISIS and prevent its reemergence in Iraq.” The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria “is still capable of offensive action and retains the ability to plan and inspire attacks worldwide.” Training and equipping are still a vital part to the CJTF strategy, but the focus requires change, along with the CJTF’s entry into this second phase. Since February 2018, the CJTF has attempted to focus its train and equip efforts “more on policing, border control and military capacity building.” However, the CJTF is not able to support many of these efforts with CTEF because of its fiscal limitations.
III. Proper Funds
A. Fiscal Law
To keep any one branch of the federal government from gaining too much power, the founders of the United States built into the Constitution specific “checks” on each of the three branches. Sections 8 and 9 of Article I of the U.S. Constitution are examples of the Legislative Branch’s check on the Executive Branch. Article I grants Congress the power to “lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States.” Article I also states, “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.” Collectively, these are Congress’s “power of the purse.” This power prohibits Executive Branch agencies, including the DoD, from spending any money until and unless Congress has passed a lawful appropriation.
Congress generally passes appropriations for the DoD annually. In addition to appropriations, Congress also passes authorizations. An authorization is a statute authorizing a particular agency to conduct specified activities using a specified appropriation. Included in these acts are generally three broad limitations on their use: the reasons the agency may use the appropriation (purpose), when the appropriation is available for obligation (time), and the total the agency may obligate (amount). The Supreme Court also held that “the expenditure of public funds is proper only when authorized by Congress, not that public funds may be expended unless prohibited by Congress.”
For example, U.S. forces may not use any funds to conduct offensive operations outside of the United States, unless Congress authorizes the activity, and only when there are funds from a proper appropriation available. In this instance, Congress traditionally passes an Overseas Contingency Operation, Operation and Maintenance (OCO O&M) appropriation. Unless Congress has provided an exception, the DoD may only use OCO O&M funds to operate and maintain the armed forces when the beneficiary is the U.S. Armed Forces, and only for select missions. This is the primary fund the DoD uses to pay for its operations in the CENTCOM area of operations. However, the fund is not available to pay for any foreign forces. For the DoD, this means Congress must specifically authorize and appropriate a separate fund to provide any train and equip assistance to a foreign force.
In November 2014, the DoD requested Congress appropriate and authorize funds to achieve its goals in supporting the ISF. Specifically, the DoD requested approximately $1.6 billion for fiscal year (FY) 2015 to provide assistance to “military and other security forces of, or associated with, the Government of Iraq, including Kurdish and tribal security forces, with a national security mission, to counter [ISIS].” The types of assistance requested included “the provision of equipment, supplies, services, training, facility and infrastructure repair, renovation, construction, and stipends.”
Congress granted the DoD request beginning in fiscal year 2015 (FY15). Between FY15 and FY19, Congress changed both the appropriations and their authorizations to counter ISIS in several important ways.
B. The ITEF Appropriation: Predecessor to CTEF
In December 2014, Congress granted the initial DoD request by appropriating approximately $1.6 billion for ITEF and making the fund available for two years (through 30 September 2016).
1. Support to the GoI
The purpose language in ITEF focused on benefiting certain groups, like the GoI, and other groups with an Iraqi “national security mission.” The language in ITEF permitted “the Secretary of Defense . . . to provide assistance . . . to military and other security forces of or associated with the Government of Iraq, including Kurdish and tribal security forces or other local security forces, with a national security mission, to counter [ISIS].” Congress added an additional condition that the Secretary of Defense must also coordinate the assistance with the Secretary of State.
2. Prohibition on Construction
The types of assistance approved by Congress in ITEF permitted “training; equipment; logistics support, supplies, and services; stipends; infrastructure repair, renovation, and sustainment.” Notably, the appropriation mirrored the DoD’s request in all types of assistance, except for one. The appropriation passed by Congress contained no reference to construction. In light of the language from the DoD’s request for the ability to perform construction, and the express provision for construction in the corresponding Syria Train and Equip authorization (discussed further below), this omission by Congress was clearly intentional. As a result, ITEF prohibited the DoD from performing any construction using ITEF for the benefit of the GoI or the ISF.
Construction is work “necessary to produce a complete and usable facility or a complete and usable improvement to an existing facility.” A “facility” is “[a] building, structure, or other improvement to real property.” This includes the creation of a new facility, adding a feature to an existing facility, all of the work required to develop the land around a facility, and “related real property requirements.” In practical terms, this prohibition meant U.S. forces could not use ITEF to build or improve any real property for the ISF. For example, the CJTF could not use ITEF to build any training facilities, life support areas, headquarters, bases, ammunition holding areas (AHA), or improvements to any existing facilities. The DoD could not even use ITEF to lay a gravel road or bulldoze a defensive earthwork berm if the primary beneficiary was the ISF.
Instead, ITEF only permitted the CJTF to repair the GoI’s existing facilities. This limited OIR units to bringing existing real property facilities back to their originally intended use and composition, and only when they were in a “failed or failing” state.
C. Authority to Provide Assistance to Counter ISIS in Iraq: Section 1236
At the same time Congress granted the initial ITEF appropriation in December 2014, it also authorized the Secretary of Defense to use ITEF to provide assistance to counter ISIS in section 1236 of the FY15 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The authorization permitted the DoD to use ITEF for the same types of assistance and supported groups listed in the ITEF appropriation. However, section 1236 also added several requirements regarding the purpose of the expenditures. The DoD could use ITEF only when the expenditure was used for “(1) [d]efending Iraq, its people, allies, and partner nations from the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and groups supporting ISIL [or] (2) [s]ecuring the territory of Iraq.”
D. Authority to Provide Assistance to the Vetted Syrian Opposition: Section 1209
Congress also authorized the DoD, in section 1209 of the FY15 NDAA, to provide assistance to the vetted Syrian opposition (VSO) to counter ISIS in Syria. Instead of appropriating a separate fund, Congress funded this Syria Train and Equip authorization by reprogramming $500 million of the $1.3 billion in funds from the Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund and re-appropriating them in support of the STE program. Section 1209 permitted expenditures with the purpose of “(1) Defending the Syrian people from [ISIS], and securing territory controlled by the Syrian opposition[;] (2) Protecting the [U.S.], its friends and allies, and the Syrian people from the threats posed by terrorists in Syria[;] and (3) Promoting the conditions for a negotiated settlement to end the conflict in Syria.” Unlike section 1236, section 1209 initially permitted the DoD to provide “training, equipment, supplies, stipends, construction of training and associated facilities, and sustainment.”
Separating ITEF and STE created two distinct authorities and funding sources controlled by the CJTF. This separation prohibited the CJTF from being able to reallocate resources purchased under one authority for use in the other theater. As discussed below, this separation created issues when the CJTF wanted to use equipment purchased for one area of operations in another area.
The ITEF and STE programs remained functionally unchanged until FY17. As the fight against ISIS developed, the terrorist organization grew outside the borders of Iraq and Syria. In the DoD’s FY 2017 Request for Additional Appropriations, the Secretary of Defense asked Congress to combine the ITEF and STE appropriations into a single “Counter-ISIS Train and Equip Fund.” The DoD made the request to combat ISIS outside of the borders of Iraq and Syria. Congress granted the request in the FY17 DoD Appropriations Act.
The types of assistance provided in the FY17 CTEF appropriation were the same as the original ITEF appropriation. In other respects, however, the language in CTEF changed significantly from the ITEF appropriation. The FY17 CTEF appropriation allowed the DoD to provide assistance outside of Iraq and Syria in countries “designated by the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Secretary of State, as having a security mission to counter [ISIS].” Additionally, Congress removed the ITEF language referring to the GoI, security forces with a “national security mission,” and “securing the territory of Iraq.” Instead, the purpose language focuses on the type of group or individual receiving the assistance. In particular, CTEF allows the DoD to provide assistance to “foreign security forces, irregular forces, groups, or individuals participating, or preparing to participate in activities to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and their affiliates or associated groups.” The Counter-ISIS Train and Equip Fund also permits the enhancement of “border security of nations adjacent to conflict areas . . . resulting from [the] actions of [ISIS].”
Congress also did not introduce any authority for construction into the FY17 CTEF appropriation. A year later, however, Congress seemingly changed course on its intent to prohibit construction. In the FY18 NDAA, Congress deleted from section 1236 the words “facility and infrastructure repair and renovation” and inserted the term “infrastructure repair and renovation, small-scale construction of temporary facilities necessary to meet urgent operational or force protection requirements with a cost less than $4,000,000.” The FY18 NDAA also limited the aggregate amount of construction, repair, and renovation under CTEF to $30 million.
Despite this apparent construction authorization, the CJTF was still unable to perform construction in OIR using CTEF until two years later, when Congress included permissive language in the FY20 CTEF appropriation for construction. Here, the CTEF appropriation was more restrictive than the authorization because it did not authorize construction. The result was an authority without a proper appropriation to carry out the authorization.
The current constraints on CTEF funded construction, repair, and renovation are significant. While the FY20 CTEF appropriation does permit construction, it limits construction projects to “facility fortification and humane treatment.” The section 1236 authorization still limits construction, repair, and renovation projects using CTEF to those with a funded cost under $4 million per project, and no more than $30 million in any fiscal year. By comparison to the total amount appropriated under CTEF for a fiscal year, this represents merely five percent of the total budget authority in FY20. Also, any project with a funded cost exceeding $1 million must receive CENTCOM approval and includes a twenty-one-day Congressional notification and wait period. The resultant ability to support foreign security forces who are countering ISIS, like the ISF, using CTEF, is largely limited to services and supplies because of these restrictions on construction, repair, and renovation.
F. The CTEF Requirement Approval Process
The CJTF has primary responsibility for CTEF management. Multiple units within the CJTF have various responsibilities regarding the development, procurement, and divestment of CTEF train and equip missions. Generally, units request CTEF equipment and services through memorandums of request (MORs). Units throughout the ISF and the Coalition first identify train and equip needs and shortfalls within the ISF. For example, the CJTF CJ7 Partner Force Development section “synchronizes train and equip efforts in order to generate a coherent force-generation process that meets operational requirements and tracks the status of CTEF equipment deliveries and divestitures.” The Ministry Liaison Team within the CJ7 section “liaises between CJTF-OIR and the Iraqi Ministries of Interior and Defense” regarding ISF plans and CJTF operational requirements.
Once a requesting unit identifies a need, the unit then develops an MOR packet. The MOR includes all the information about what the unit is requesting, the relevant costs, the circumstances surrounding the requirement, and the primary beneficiary of the request. Once the packet is complete, the CJ4 section, normally responsible for logistics, finalizes the packet and presents it to the Combined Joint Force Land Component Command (CJFLCC) or CJTF CTEF board. This board is comprised of various staff section leaders and chaired by the CJTF Deputy Commanding General for Sustainment. A U.S. Army judge advocate also sits on the board as a non-voting member to advise the Chairman and the board members on various fiscal and other legal matters.
Once approved by the board, the U.S. commander for CJTF approves or denies the MOR, after de-conflicting requirements with the GoI and OSC-I. The CJTF then sends approved MORs to CENTCOM for endorsement. Once all levels fully approve and endorse the requirement, either the Defense Security Cooperation Agency fulfills the need or the contracting office makes the procurement.
IV. Issues with CTEF in OIR Today
A. CTEF Has Limited Construction, Repair, and Renovation Authority
As discussed above, prior to the FY18 NDAA’s cap on construction, repair, and renovation, CTEF, and ITEF before it, did not permit construction at all. Projects involving real property facilities were limited to “repair” or “maintenance” only. No other funds available to the CJTF permit this type of work for the benefit of the ISF. Now, while CTEF permits construction, its availability is significantly limited. However, the CJTF requires multiple facilities and real property structures to conduct its BPC training mission and its A3E missions with the ISF. Many of the facilities in use for these missions require significant construction or repair efforts. For example, the training area at Besmaya is vital to the ISF training mission and in substantial need of construction and repair.
In 2014, when the United States and its coalition partners re-entered Iraq, they chose several BPC sites to conduct train and equip missions. These sites were mostly old U.S. training sites, built during Operation Iraqi Freedom prior to 2011. After the United States left Iraq in 2011, the sites fell into severe disrepair. The CJTF designated one such site, the Besmaya Range Complex (BRC), located outside of Baghdad, as a BPC site, where the Spanish Army still operates its training programs. This site is a prime example of how CTEF’s pre-FY18 prohibition on construction and post-FY18 restrictions on real property projects impede the CTJF mission.
Besmaya is a very large area, capable of training soldiers on any weapon system in the Iraqi arsenal. However, the infrastructure was, and continues to be, in severe disrepair. The Spanish pay for the construction, maintenance, and repair of the Gran Capitan area occupied by their forces. However, the Spanish relied on the use of ITEF, and now relies on CTEF, to fund improvements to any training facilities and equipping the ISF.
The existing training facilities at the BRC include life support areas (LSA), classrooms, dining facilities, and a basic load ammunition holding area (BLAHA). However, by 2017, these facilities were in such disrepair the ISF could only use part of the kitchen and dining area in the primary dining facility, and only one of the LSAs. The construction restriction not only limited the ability to create new training facilities, it also restricted the CJTF’s ability to improve facilities, even to address safety concerns.
For example, the ISF used the BLAHA to hold munitions used in training and for storing ammunition recovered from the battlefield. However, the blast barriers surrounding the facility were deteriorating, and the ammunition load far exceeded the structure’s capability to hold the explosives. The ISF were also storing the explosives and ammunition above the facility’s capacity and only in one area, rather than spreading the items throughout the BLAHA. The storage structures for holding the munitions were nothing more than exposed metal shipping containers. During the summer, the area reached temperatures in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and the temperature inside the containers well exceeded the air temperature outside. If the temperatures around the munitions got too high, they were at risk of explosion, secondarily detonating the rest of the explosives in the facility. To make matters worse, the BLAHA was located next to the only usable ISF LSA. All of these factors created a significant safety concern. The BRC BLAHA was in such a deplorable condition that the DoD Inspector General issued a notice of concern to the CENTCOM commander in February 2018, citing multiple safety issues.
The CJTF wanted to move the BLAHA and build a new one at a remote location with an improved structure and better safety features. However, due to the construction prohibition, the CJTF could not use CTEF to build a new BLAHA. At the time, CTEF also prohibited improving the existing facility. The only course of action available was to repair the BLAHA and restore it to its original dimensions and capabilities, in its current location.
Life support areas, which the BRC also requires to house ISF soldiers during training, provide another example of needed construction. In 2018, the one LSA available for ISF use was significantly overcrowded. The Regional Camp area at the BRC contained an LSA with multiple housing units, bathrooms, classrooms, and the primary dining facility. However, unknown people had looted the containerized housing units, bathrooms, and classrooms in the camp of air conditioners and any other valuable property. Also, the facilities themselves were severely dilapidated due to exposure to the weather and lack of maintenance. Nearly all of the LSA buildings were completely unusable.
As a result, early in the OIR campaign, the CJTF attempted to build a temporary LSA (named “F4N”) nearby, using tents and other personal property materials. The CJTF approved and executed the contract. However, when the project was nearly complete, someone vandalized the site and stole essential parts from the generators and electrical system. As a result, the Spanish Army sent an additional request for funds to the appropriate ITEF board to complete the project. When the board looked into the work completed on the project itself, it found the work included elements of construction. Work on the project had included leveling and grading the site for the tent structures and digging a pit for a water tank. This work falls within the definition of construction. Although the work was a small part of the overall price and work for the project, it triggered concerns about an Antideficiency Act violation regarding the use of ITEF. Work on the project halted. As of spring 2018, the site remained untouched and unusable for the ISF.
The BRC also required classroom space. The CJTF was able to get approval for a conversion project involving badly needed classroom space. The BRC had a set of old barracks buildings (named “M22”) that were unusable because flooding and weather damaged the flooring. The project consisted of converting these buildings into classrooms. Because the project would not expand the footprint or dimensions of the original buildings, the engineers were able to classify the work as a conversion. However, if CTEF had permitted construction, the CJTF could have completed the classrooms and the rest of the required facilities more quickly, better tailored to the need, and more economically.
The Qayyarah Airfield West (Q-West) sits approximately forty miles south of Mosul in a key northern Iraq location. After the ISF took Q-West back from ISIS, the Coalition began conducting A3E missions from the base with their partner Iraqi Air Force units. Combat destroyed most of the infrastructure of Q-West in 2016 during the fight to take back the base from ISIS. During the Mosul offensive, the Coalition also used the base to conduct air and fire support operations in support of ISF units retaking the city. After the ISF liberated Mosul in July 2017, fire support operations out of Q-West declined. Because of its northern location, the CJTF wanted to turn Q-West into another BPC site and increase wide area security forces training for four ISF emergency response battalions (ERB) located in northern Iraq. Wide area security forces training includes “fieldcraft, small arms training, section and platoon maneuver, checkpoint operations, cordon and search, communications, combat first aid, explosive threat awareness, CBRN defen[s]e, [and] ethics and law of armed conflict.” At the time, Q-West was experiencing a large increase of ISF units reassigned to the area due to a relocation of an ISF division headquarters and “large numbers of troops . . . from the Mosul area.” The CJTF intended to train an ISF battalion-size element, containing approximately 300 soldiers, during each training rotation.
However, the site lacked a sufficient number of LSAs to support the desired training. Q-West also lacked any existing infrastructure the CJTF could convert into LSAs. Because of the CTEF limitations on construction, the CJTF had to consider alternative options. Instead of building the LSAs, they were forced to purchase Force Provider kits for the ISF during their training rotations. A Force Provider kit is a series of large tents for billeting that also includes “ancillary equipment to enable sanitation . . . kitchen installations, refrigeration, laundry units, expeditionary showers, as well as latrines.” They are quick to assemble and are highly configurable. Each kit allows for the housing of 150 personnel, and the CJTF purchased two sets for Q-West in the summer of 2018. Army regulations deem tents to be personal property items and not construction when used in this configuration, so the purchase was permissible using CTEF and was not subject to the $30 million annual cap.
However, the design of Force Provider kits makes them ideal only for temporary environments, and they are quite expensive. These kits cannot function as enduring LSAs, and the duration of their use is limited. Each kit costs approximately $2.5 million, and the CJTF estimated the shipping and ancillary costs to be approximately $750,000. The total cost for this requirement was approximately $5.7 million.
When compared to expeditionary construction projects, the costs of these temporary LSAs for a limited training audience is excessive. For example, the CJTF built an LSA on Camp Union III in Baghdad that was capable of housing approximately 100 personnel for an indefinite period at the total cost of $716,144.07. If CTEF permitted greater flexibility regarding real property projects, the CJTF could have built multiple LSAs at a significantly reduced cost, and they could have used the remaining funds for other projects.
3. Baghdad Operations Center—Media Training Center
The fight against ISIS exists on multiple fronts. For example, one of the primary methods ISIS uses to recruit and spread its messaging is through social media. The ISF’s Baghdad Operations Center (BOC) tries to counter ISIS’s social media presence through its own social media messaging and by directly attacking ISIS’s access and capabilities on the internet.
However, the ISF’s capabilities to conduct such a mission are undeveloped. The ISF has information operations (IO) units in many of its different entities. However, the GoI does not have a central narrative, and their IO efforts as of June 2017 were not doing well. As a result, the BOC requested the CJTF construct a Media Training Center (MTC), to train ISF units with the technical expertise to conduct these missions. The center required specialized and technical equipment to meet the need. This also required a specialized facility. The facility the BOC was using in the summer of 2017 was inadequate because it borrowed the space from another ISF unit and was at continual risk of repossession.
The CJTF wanted to grant the request and intended to use an existing contract with British contractors to teach Iraqi officers the required IO skill set, as well as teach them how to train new officers themselves. However, as discussed above, CTEF was not available to the CJTF to simply build an MTC. In order for the CJTF to build the ISF an MTC using CTEF, they were limited to repairing an existing facility. In this case, it was difficult to locate an adequate facility because the BOC did not have many assets. The BOC also required a facility central to their operations in Baghdad.
In addition, in order to properly train and conduct their IO mission across the ISF, they needed to train various officers from different organizations within the GoI. This would provide the centralized messaging and a uniform skill set within each of the ISF’s War Media Cells. The political nature of the various groups required the BOC to be the owner of the facility. Otherwise, once built, there was a danger of the true owner reclaiming the facility and commandeering the resources.
As a result of the inability to find such a specialized facility, the ISF, BOC, and CJTF considered multiple locations without success. The CJFLCC-OIR Joint Facilities Working Group (JFWG) evaluated the initial request on 1 July 2017. As of February 2018, the project had still not gone beyond the engineering evaluation phase.
B. CJTF-OIR Cannot Support Groups Conducting Stability Operations
1. Consolidating Gains—Stability Operations
Stability operations are key to the current CTJF mission. The ISF have largely defeated the physical ISIS “caliphate” in Iraq. Because of this, the ISF and the CJTF must focus more on pursuing the lasting defeat of ISIS. To prevent the resurgence of ISIS, the CJTF needs to be able to support groups with missions to secure the territory of Iraq and promote stability throughout the country. Both the language of CTEF and the DoD OGC interpretation of CTEF limit the CJTF regarding stability operations.
One example of these limitations is with requests to train and equip regional and local police forces. Two general categories of local police training audiences exist in Iraq: “blue” police and “green” police. “Blue” police are those local police forces with a traditional law and order mission for their assigned area. “Green” police, on the other hand, are forces responsible for holding territory in Iraq against the resurgence of ISIS. As the ISF push ISIS out of territory, these forces “secure liberated areas and prevent ISIS from reestablishing an effective presence.” This also frees the ISF to continue fighting ISIS.
“Blue” police are important to regional stability. They are the local face of the GoI, and they give confidence to the local population in the GoI’s ability to establish law and order. “Blue” police are responsible for election security and crime enforcement. However, these forces are currently ineligible for support because they are not directly “countering” ISIS and they do not have a direct “kinetic” effect. The closest groups the CJTF has been able to support with CTEF are the green police hold forces. However, under the current paradigm, even these groups tenuously qualify for support.
While the CJTF may not use CTEF to support the training or equipping of blue police, the fight against ISIS through stability operations would benefit from blue police training. For example, courses in crowd security and riot control would assist the GoI in providing regional stability and election security. The Camp Dublin BPC site is a prime example where the CJTF can leverage already existing trainers and infrastructure to train blue police.
2. Camp Dublin
For most of the OIR operation, Task Force Carabinieri has trained both “blue” and “green” police forces at the Camp Dublin BPC site. The CJTF named the task force after Italy’s national military police force, the Carabinieri Corps, because they were the primary coalition partner performing the training. In November 2017, Task Force Carabinieri was renamed Police Task Force-Iraq “to reflect its growing multinational presence.” Included in the training audience are Iraq’s Federal Police (FEDPOL), Energy Police, Highway Police, Federal Building Security, and local police forces. The courses of instruction include Police Advanced Training, Law and Order, and Counter-Improvised Explosive Device training. The trainees at Camp Dublin fall primarily under Iraq’s Ministry of the Interior (MoI). These training audiences also vary in their primary functions in the fight against ISIS.
The FEDPOL, for example, is similar to a traditional military force and directly takes part in combat operations against ISIS. Groups like the Energy Police and Federal Building Security focus primarily on protecting Iraq’s infrastructure. The ISF also organizes units like these into ERBs. The GoI uses these ERBs as the “hold forces” to take the place of Iraqi Army units in liberated areas in order to secure territory taken from ISIS and allow the Army units to continue fighting. The ERBs primary focus is to hold this territory and prevent the resurgence of any enemy forces. They conduct urban operations within the security framework of the Iraqi Army and conduct joint operations.
This varied combination of police training audiences creates funding issues when furnishing them with equipment purchased using CTEF. While Italy initially provided some equipment, the Task Force required additional resources to fully train and equip all of their intended courses of instruction. However, only the “green” police qualify for CTEF assistance. This requires the CJTF to parse out which forces receiving the equipment are actually countering or preparing to counter ISIS.
In April 2017, the Carabinieri requested approximately $1.8 million in equipment for their training period beginning in June 2017. This request passed the CJTF CTEF board, but CENTCOM denied the requirement in July 2017. The reason for the denial primarily rested on the inclusion of various items not traditionally associated with warfighting. For example, the request included crowd control shields, crowd control bags, riot gear, and batons. This forced the Carabinieri to re-evaluate and re-submit their request, taking out any equipment associated with riot control training, and they submitted another request in August 2017. As of February 2018, the CJTF had not provided any equipment purchased using CTEF under this MOR to Camp Dublin.
3. The DoD OGC Interprets CTEF Too Narrowly
The Office of the Secretary of Defense’s (OSD) guidance on the use of CTEF is narrower than the plain language of the CTEF appropriation. The OSD’s OGC interprets CTEF in such a way that the assistance must tie into a “kinetic” effect in relation to the defeat of ISIS. While the OGC has not formalized this interpretation into a policy memorandum, it still has a substantial effect on CTEF requirements and CENTCOM’s endorsement of those requirements. However, neither the CTEF appropriation, nor the section 1236 authorization to provide assistance to counter ISIS, contain any language regarding “kinetic” operations against ISIS. Instead, the current version of the CTEF appropriation only limits support to “foreign security forces, irregular forces, groups, or individuals participating, or preparing to participate in activities to counter [ISIS], and their affiliates or associated groups.” Joint Doctrine does not define the term “counter.” The closest analogy in Joint Doctrine regarding countering ISIS is the term “counterterrorism.” The DOD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms defines “counterterrorism” as “[a]ctivities and operations taken to neutralize terrorists and their organizations and networks in order to render them incapable of using violence to instill fear and coerce governments or societies to achieve their goals.” The dictionary defines the term “counter” in lay terminology as “to act in opposition to,” to “oppose,” “offset,” or “nullify.” Using either of these definitions, the term “counter” can and should be broadly applied when used in the CTEF context. Many different means and methods exist to counter ISIS that do not result in an immediate “kinetic” effect.
The OGC interpretation more strictly construes CTEF than Congressional intent regarding the fight against ISIS. In section 1233(d) of the FY19 NDAA, Congress states its intent explicitly.
It is the sense of the Congress that . . . a lasting defeat of ISIS is critical to maintaining a stable and tolerant Iraq in which all faiths, sects, and ethnicities are afforded equal protection and full integration into the Government and society of Iraq; and  in support of counter-ISIS operations and in conjunction with the [GoI], the United States should continue to provide operational sustainment, as appropriate, to the [Peshmerga, so that they] can more effectively partner with the [ISF], the United States, and other international Coalition members to consolidate gains, hold territory, and protect infrastructure from ISIS and its affiliates in an effort to deal a lasting defeat to ISIS and prevent its reemergence in Iraq.
Consolidating gains, holding territory, and protecting infrastructure from ISIS are all activities that do not traditionally result in a “kinetic” effect.
C. Reallocating Equipment
The separation of ITEF and STE into two separate funding sources and authorizations resulted in the funding compartmentalization of both efforts. The CJTF is responsible for both missions. However, when the CJTF purchases equipment with ITEF for use in Iraq, and the equipment later becomes excess or undesirable for that purpose, the CJTF may not redirect that equipment for use in Syria, where they could use it for training and equipping the VSO.
The ITEF and CTEF appropriations do permit unneeded or returned equipment, purchased under those authorities, to be taken back into DoD stocks, but they do not permit its transfer to another purpose. The STE did not even allow excess equipment to be taken back into DoD stocks. Until the FY19 DoDAA, neither program permitted the transfer of equipment between theaters. However, the CJTF still may not transfer excess equipment, previously purchased under ITEF or CTEF for use in Iraq, to purposes in Syria. This became an obvious and counter-intuitive problem. The United States and ISF had stockpiles of unused and unneeded weapons and equipment purchased with ITEF and CTEF in Iraq and Kuwait. Yet, the CJTF may not transfer this equipment to forces in Syria, where the CJTF needs it for the VSO, because of the restriction. Instead, the CJTF is left to procure new Syria requirements through the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), or the contracting office. The ability to transfer excess weapons and equipment from Iraq to Syria would result in a quicker response to procuring MORs in Syria, a significant cost savings, and a reduction in the amount of resources used by the CJTF.
D. The Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement with Iraq
The DoD executed an Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA) with the Iraqi Ministry of Defense in August 2014. An ACSA is an agreement between the military forces of two nations for the purchase, or equal value exchange, of logistical support, supplies, and services (LSSS). Using this authority, it is possible for the United States to provide multiple LSSS requirements to the Iraqi Ministry of Defense (MoD), to include “construction incident to base operations.” At first glance, the use of this ACSA could fill in where CTEF falls short. However, neither military force has used this agreement with each other in the fight against ISIS since approximately 2015. Instead, both sides appear to rely on the CTEF programs to support the ISF.
To use an ACSA transaction, the requesting party must reimburse the servicing party in one of several ways for the actual value of the items or services. In short, unlike CTEF assistance, the GoI would have to pay for the cost of the requirement. In recent years, the GoI has experienced significant budget shortfalls. Oil exports account for almost 90% of Iraq’s public-sector revenue. Low oil prices, output limitations imposed by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, and funding the ISF have significantly limited GoI resources. This limitation on resources provides little incentive or ability for the GoI to pay for equipment and services they believe the United States could provide them without reimbursement under CTEF. In an effort to fulfill several MORs not otherwise eligible for CTEF, the CJFLCC leadership approached their ISF counterparts in early 2018 about using the ACSA. However, the GoI and MoD have been reluctant to even identify who the currently authorized ACSA transaction authority is within the MoD. As a result, the ACSA authority is not likely to fill requirement gaps in the near future without additional agreement between the DoD and the MoD.
V. Alternate Sources of Train and Equip and Comparative Appropriations
In order to analyze the CTEF appropriation’s efficacy, it is necessary to explore alternate sources of support and to compare similar appropriations in other theaters. This section looks at several of these relevant sources: The Office of Security Cooperation, Iraq (OSC-I), the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund (ASFF), and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Mission in Iraq.
A. The OSC-I
The DoS has the primary responsibility to establish policy and conduct foreign assistance on behalf of the U.S. Government. This responsibility even exists during U.S. military operations. Foreign assistance includes providing security assistance to a foreign nation. Generally, security assistance falls under Title 22 funding authorities, enabling the DoS to train, equip, and assist foreign militaries through security assistance mechanisms like Foreign Military Sales (FMS), Foreign Military Financing (FMF), and International Military Education Training (IMET).
The terms “security cooperation” and “security assistance” each have independent significance in the context of providing assistance to foreign countries. Security cooperation includes “[a]ll [DoD] interactions with foreign security establishments to build security relationships that promote specific [U.S.] security interests, develop allied and partner nation military and security capabilities for self-defense and multinational operations, and provide [U.S.] forces with peacetime and contingency access to allied and partner nations.” Security assistance is a subset of security cooperation referring to a “[g]roup of programs . . . by which the [U.S.] provides defense articles, military training, and other defense-related services by grant, lease, loan, credit, or cash sales in furtherance of national policies and objectives.”
Many of the Title 22 “security assistance” programs stem from DoS appropriations, and the DoS Office of Security Assistance manages them under an individual Chief of Mission at the various U.S. embassies. However, the DoD largely administers these programs through DSCA, and the definition includes DSCA as part of security cooperation. The DSCA mission “is to advance U.S. national security and foreign policy interests by building the capacity of foreign security forces to respond to shared challenges.” The DSCA accomplishes this mission through various Security Cooperation Organizations (SCOs) throughout the world.
One of these SCOs, based at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, is OSC-I. The plan for OSC-I began in February 2009 when President Barrack Obama announced his intent to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq by 31 December 2011, and his commitment to “pursuing sustained diplomacy to build a lasting strategic relationship between the two countries.” The intent in establishing the OSC-I was to facilitate the transfer of all security assistance responsibilities from the DoD to the DoS. The resulting OSC-I responsibilities were immense, compared to other SCOs at the time, and Baghdad became one of the largest SCOs in the world. Between 2011 and 2014, the OSC-I had primary responsibility for training and equipping the ISF. The OSC-I administered FMS, Foreign Military Construction Services, Foreign Military Sales Credit, Leases, Military Assistance Program, IMET, and Drawdown. During the administration of these programs, personnel at OSC-I were able to develop significant relationships with their Iraqi MoD and MoI counterparts. The OSC-I personnel generally serve a minimum of twelve months in their office and have an opportunity to work closely with the MoD and MoI.
After the U.S. military re-entered Iraq, the CJTF asserted control over the Iraq train and equip missions using ITEF (and later CTEF). The OSC-I retained responsibility for FMS cases and long term planning with the GoI. However, their budget authority diminished significantly year after year. The OSC-I also acted as the liaison between the GoI, MoD, DoS, and DoD. Congress intentionally split these functions between the CJTF and OSC-I. There was no intention for U.S. troops to remain in Iraq for an extended period, and OIR is an international coalition mission. The United States preference was for other nations to perform many of these functions.
B. Afghanistan Security Forces Fund
Compared to CTEF, the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund (ASFF) has broader authority for commanders to provide security assistance. Congress recently renewed ASFF through 30 September 2021. The ASFF allows the commander of the Combined Security Transition Command, Afghanistan (CSTC-A) to provide assistance to the “security forces of the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of the Interior of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.” This includes the Afghan National Army, the Afghan National Police, and even the Afghan Local Police. The CSTC-A may use ASFF to provide “equipment, supplies, services, training, facility and infrastructure repair, renovation, construction, and funding.”
The purpose language in CTEF and ASFF differs significantly. The ASFF permits construction without further restriction where CTEF does not. Like CTEF, ASFF limits its support to membership in certain security forces. However, CTEF further limits its support to those groups who are also actively countering ISIS or training to counter ISIS. The ASFF does not have similar restrictive language regarding the Taliban, or any other forces the Afghan security forces are fighting. This discrepancy is likely due to a difference in overall mission. While the mission of the CJTF is the defeat of ISIS, the mission of the CSTC-A is to build the infrastructure of Afghanistan and transfer all security responsibilities to the Afghan security forces. Also, the United States leads the Coalition’s mission in Iraq, while NATO leads the Afghanistan mission.
Another key difference in the scope of ASFF is Congress’s inclusion of “funding” as an approved source of support in the appropriation. Using this language, the CSTC-A can use ASFF to give money directly to security forces of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan for a broad range of purposes. However, the biggest difference between CTEF and ASFF is the size of the appropriations. Congress appropriated just over $4.9 billion for ASFF in the FY19 DoD Appropriations Act. By comparison, Congress appropriated $1.35 billion for CTEF at the same time. In short, Congress provides more money, wider authorities, and broader discretion to the security force train and equip mission fighting terrorism in Afghanistan, than that of Iraq and Syria.
C. The NATO Mission Iraq
In July 2018, NATO launched a training and capacity-building mission aimed at Iraq’s security forces and defense institutions. The NATO mission is a non-combat role developed in coordination with the CJTF and the GoI. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization sends “several hundred NATO-trainers” with a goal of helping the ISF “secure their country and the wider region against terrorism and prevent the re-emergence of ISIS.” Their focus is on “train[ing] the trainer” in counter-IED, civil-military planning, armored vehicle maintenance, military medicine, and setting up military schools. This NATO mission was up and running in October 2018.
The NATO Mission Iraq will be valuable to long-term stability operations in Iraq. However, the scope of the mission and resources appears to be small in comparison to the total resources and effort needed to achieve a lasting defeat of ISIS. The mission will likely supplement the Coalition’s efforts, rather than replace them.
VI. The Solution
The ISF and Coalition fight against ISIS is at a fragile crossroads. The ISF still needs CJTF support to fully defeat ISIS, and stability operations are key to that goal. However, the United States has a history of “forgetting that stabilization is a vital function that must be performed across the range of military operations.” Doctrinally, stability operations are a “core U.S. military mission,” on par with combat operations. As traditional combat operations against ISIS wind down, the DoD expects ISIS to transition to asymmetric tactics designed to “prevent GoI consolidation of authority in the liberated areas.” Currently, the GoI still requires combat operations by the ISF, including the Peshmerga, to set conditions for the next phase of stability operations. The ISF are fighting well, but they still “rely upon significant coalition enablers to achieve tactical overmatch against ISIS” and continued efforts to train and equip the ISF are required for the GoI to “secure its people and territory from ISIS and deny ISIS the opportunity to regenerate.” To successfully achieve this end, Congress and the DoD must make several changes.
A. Broaden CTEF’s Purpose Language
The combat mission against ISIS in Iraq is temporary and not intended to last longer than required to obtain a lasting defeat of ISIS. However, a stable and secure territory in Iraq is vital to prevent the resurgence of ISIS. Congress should amend the language of the CTEF appropriation and the section 1236 authorization to match the current fight against ISIS.
1. Broaden Construction, Repair, and Renovation Authority
Congress should amend the CTEF appropriation to allow the CJTF broad authority to conduct minor military construction for qualifying groups, like the ISF. Currently, the FY20 CTEF appropriation states, “[t]hat such funds shall be available to the Secretary of Defense in coordination with the Secretary of State, to provide assistance, including training; equipment; logistics support, supplies, and services; stipends; infrastructure repair and renovation; construction for facility fortification and humane treatment; and sustainment . . . .” Congress should strike the words “construction for facility fortification and humane treatment” and insert the words “small-scale construction.” The CTEF already includes purpose language limiting its use for groups countering or preparing to counter ISIS. The current language unnecessarily adds limitations to construction projects by requiring them to be for “facility fortification” or “humane treatment.” The CTEF appropriation’s original purpose language is sufficient. Making this proposed change would broaden the CJTF’s ability to respond to counter-ISIS requirements, as originally intended by the appropriation, and still minimize the potential for financial waste by limiting projects to small-scale construction. Practitioners could then reference section 1236 to determine what constitutes “small-scale construction.”
Section 1236 currently permits “infrastructure repair and renovation, small-scale construction of temporary facilities necessary to meet urgent operational or force protection requirements with a cost less than $4,000,000.” Section 1236(m) states, “[t]he aggregate amount of construction, repair, and renovation projects carried out under this [authority] in any fiscal year may not exceed $30,000,000.” Congress should strike section 1236(m) and eliminate the aggregate annual cap. An annual cap unnecessarily forces the command to make value determinations on projects and rank them against each other. It also forces the command to be too cautious in validating projects. If a highly needed unforeseen requirement arises in the latter part of the year, it might be sacrificed at the expense of a lower priority requirement earlier in the year that exceeded the cap.
Making these changes in language would help the CJTF meet the current need on the ground by adding flexibility. It would also allow the CJTF the ability to react to needs in a timely manner, without having to rely on the lengthy budget request and notification process. For example, all of the projects referenced above at the BRC would qualify for funding under the recommended language without going against an artificial annual cap, and all without exceeding the $1 million threshold for notification to Congress. Making these small amendments will align CTEF with the current mission and empower CJTF commanders by giving them the flexibility to match the ever-changing OIR mission.
2. Broaden CTEF Eligibility
In order to achieve its goal, the CJTF needs the ability to train and equip groups that are not actively engaged in “kinetic” or “counter” ISIS operations. For example, local police forces are vital to combating terrorism at a local level and securing the territory of Iraq. With the understanding that CTEF is available in several different countries, Congress should amend the CTEF appropriation to include the following definition of the term “Counter-ISIS”:
A foreign security force, irregular force, group, or individual is participating, or preparing to participate in activities to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and their affiliated or associated groups when:
(1) Their mission is to defeat ISIS through combat operations,
(2) Their mission is to prevent the resurgence of ISIS in an area affected by ISIS, or
(3) Their mission is to promote stability in an area affected by ISIS through the implementation of legitimate and traditional governmental functions.
“Legitimate functions” are those functions legally chosen by the governed population, including police activities. “Traditional functions” are those recognized by the international community as being a well-established and required function of a democratically elected government (e.g., law and order, elections, utilities, education).
The section 1236 authorization should retain most of its original language regarding groups eligible for support, with several minor changes:
. . . to military and other security forces of or associated with the Government of Iraq, including Kurdish and tribal security forces or other local security forces, with a national security mission, through December 31, 202X, for the following purposes:
(1) Defending Iraq, its people, allies, and partner nations from the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and their affiliated or associated groups, or
(2) Securing the territory of Iraq in areas affected by ISIS.
Making these amendments will allow the CJTF to fully support the ISF and the GoI as their fight against ISIS continues and stability operations become more imperative. This would permit CTEF funding for many of the stability and social media missions Iraq currently requires.
B. The DoD OGC Should Broaden Its Current Interpretation of CTEF
The current OGC interpretation of CTEF and section 1236 is unnecessarily strict. The OGC and OSD should issue formal guidance to fiscal law practitioners in the field regarding its interpretation of these authorities. Judge advocates, logisticians, comptrollers, and commanders are accustomed to limitations from higher commands. However, higher commands generally formalize these limitations in a written order, delegation, or guidance. In this case, verbal guidance has been issued by OGC to CENTCOM, and then from CENTCOM to the CJTF Office of the Staff Judge Advocate. While not prohibited, verbal direction that seems to contradict the plain language of the written Congressional appropriation and authorization creates multiple issues in practice. Commanders rely on the advice and guidance of their staff sections. When the judge advocate cannot produce a written instruction regarding a significant limiting factor from higher command, the commander loses confidence in his or her advisor. At a minimum, this frustration causes unnecessary staffing, consternation, and a lack of ability to interpret the instruction. Written directions cause less confusion and are more likely to provide clear guidance regarding the proposed course of action.
Here, OGC’s interpretation of “counter-ISIS” activities requires an MOR to result in some “kinetic” effect. As discussed previously, the OSD and OGC should interpret CTEF and section 1236 to match the plain language of the legislation and intent of Congress. Stability operations designed to prevent the resurgence of ISIS can and should reasonably be included in the definition of counter-ISIS activities. The OCG should then issue this opinion in written guidance so units and fiscal law practitioners can better empower their commanders.
C. Incorporate Previously Purchased ITEF and STE Equipment into CTEF
Congress should amend CTEF to allow the “re-purposing” of undistributed equipment purchased under ITEF to be reallocated under current CTEF programs. This would permit the transfer of equipment purchased under ITEF from Iraq to Syria and legitimize the distribution of previously stockpiled equipment.
Currently, CTEF allows the DoD to take unused or returned ITEF and CTEF purchased equipment into DoD stocks. Congress also recently allowed the transfer of unused equipment from Syria to Iraq. However, CTEF still does not permit the transfer of unused equipment from Iraq to Syria. Congress should amend CTEF by adding the following language:
That equipment procured using funds provided under this heading, or under the headings, “Iraq Train and Equip Fund,” or “Counterterrorism Partnership Fund” in prior Acts, under the authority of either section 1209 or 1236 of the Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, and not yet transferred
to security forces, irregular forces, or groups participating, or preparing to participate in activities to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, may be redirected for use in any other authorized purpose under section 1209 or 1236 of the Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, when determined by the Secretary to no longer be required for transfer to such forces or groups and upon written notification to the congressional defense committees.
Adding this language to CTEF would permit the CJTF to transfer unused equipment purchased under ITEF for use in Syria. It would also allow the CJTF to transfer unused equipment purchased under STE for use in Iraq.
D. Improve the Process
1. Transfer Iraq CTEF Responsibility to OSC-I
The CJTF currently has authority over the train and equip mission for the ISF. Once CENTCOM determines the CJTF and ISF have completed the first phase of the Coalition mission and defeated the physical ISIS caliphate, the authority to use CTEF should move from the CJTF to OSC-I. The OSC-I should also remain as the enduring DoD security cooperation presence in Iraq until the GoI achieves regional stability. The OSC-I is better suited to handle long-term stability operations and security assistance in Iraq for two reasons.
First, security assistance is a DoS responsibility. The CTEF appropriation and section 1236 are a security assistance program. According to Joint Doctrine, the DoS is responsible for security assistance programs and the DSCA manages the programs. Under DSCA, the OSC-I already plans for long-term security cooperation with the GoI. Taking on short-term assistance planning using CTEF is already in line with its current functions. Based on the FY19 NDAA regarding the OSC-I, Congress also intends the DoS to regain its traditional role of security assistance in Iraq, as early as 2020. It appears from this language, OSC-I’s focus is on eventually shifting the security assistance mission back to the DoS, where it is appropriate. The OSC-I is also already nested within the DoS and the Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq.
Second, the OSC-I is better suited to determine what effect particular types of security assistance will have during a period of stability operations and ensure they are in line with U.S. national interests. Moreover, they have had responsibility for this function in the recent past. Their planning horizon looks beyond three years, and longer-term stability in Iraq is the ultimate goal. Also, OSC-I and the DoS are better able to partner with Iraqi MoI because the DoD is generally limited to security cooperation engagements with the MoD. Long term stability train and equip missions will need to focus more and more on local police training and law and order courses. Transferring CTEF authority and administration responsibility would require additional manpower resources within OSC-I. Both Congress and the DoD should allocate appropriate resources to the OSC-I with this in mind.
2. Enable the ACSA
The ACSA process is potentially a very useful tool to fulfill ISF capability gaps when the CJTF cannot use CTEF. United States Central Command should reengage the GoI and MoD leadership to standardize the use of the ACSA under certain conditions. While the Iraqis may not have excess funds to pay for ACSA transactions, they do have other resources they can use to pay for ACSA support. The supported party in an Iraq ACSA transaction can pay for the requirement in three ways. The supported entity can pay in cash, do an equal value exchange, or replace in kind. In this case, the equal-value-exchange option is underused. Here, the MoD can use the resources they do have—manpower—in exchange for the support. For example, the MoD could agree to provide a certain amount of perimeter security for a set period. The value of this service should be easily quantifiable by any contracting office.
The continued “threat of ISIS attacks remains, and the Iraqi Security Forces continue to aggressively pursue these remnants where they are hiding.” Much work is left to be done, lest we repeat the mistakes of our past by leaving before the fight is fully won. To ensure the lasting defeat of ISIS, CTEF requires change. Congress must amend CTEF to support the current fight, one that includes stability operations designed to combat the resurgence of ISIS. Until and unless that happens, the DoD OGC should loosen its restrictive interpretation on “counter-ISIS” activities. It should remove its requirement for “kinetic” effects and include activities designed to prevent the return of ISIS. Forsaking all other recommendations, this singular act has the potential to make the greatest, most meaningful, and immediate impact on the fight in OIR.
These recommended actions will give OIR commanders the flexibility and resources to support the GoI in the current fight against ISIS, as well as the fragile time of transition found in stability operations. The continued use of CTEF after implementing the proposed changes is the most effective, efficient, and responsible way to finally defeat ISIS and permanently prevent it from returning. United States interests are also critical in this region. If the United States does not support the efforts for regional stability in Iraq, multiple other bad actors are in the area, ready to destabilize the region and set conditions for ISIS, or the next iteration of ISIS, to return.