8/28/2005

BLACKFIVE: Colonel James Coffman - Someone You Should Know

How General Petraeus solved the "train Iraq forces" problem: By using old Iraq military men... Clever, but will it work long term ? -- law

PS: Blackfive is my new "blog find". He is conservative, military and pretty indocrinated with Bush talking points but I get a sense of "the real thing" when he talks about the troops on Iraq. Oh well, I guess I'll keep it on my blogroll for balance. Blackfive was elected Best Military blog of 2004 (I bet Leonard Clark's blog wasn't in the options - no liberal blogs are allowed)


In 2004, a certain group of Soldiers were sent out to find Iraqi Irregular forces (privately funded and privately led). One of those Soldiers was Colonel James Coffman who found and began to work with the Special Police Commandos. Coffman enlisted in the US Army in 1972 and would become a Mustange by attending West Point. Below is the beginning of the story:

New factor in Iraq: irregular brigades fill security void
BY: Greg Jaffe, The Wall Street Journal
02/16/2005

...the Special Police Commandos, was formed in September by Gen. Adnan Thavit, the uncle of Iraq's interim interior minister. The unit started with about 1,000 soldiers. When Col. James Coffman, a senior aide to Gen. Petraeus, found them they were occupying a heavily damaged Republican Guard base a few miles from the U.S. embassy. "It was basically 1,000 guys at the time living in a bombed-out building with no electricity, no plumbing and no bathrooms," the colonel says.

Col. Coffman, however, was struck by the unit's arms room, which was stocked with rocket-propelled-grenade launchers, mortar tubes and lots of ammunition. "The weapons were clean and organized," he says. He immediately went on a patrol with the unit and was impressed by both Gen. Thavit and his troops. The soldiers seemed to have a discipline that many of the U.S.-trained Iraqi Army units lacked.

The 63-year-old Gen. Thavit, an intelligence officer in the old Iraqi Air Force, attended military academies in the former Soviet Union and former Yugoslavia. In the mid-1990s he joined a small group of former officers plotting to overthrow Saddam Hussein. In 1996 their plan unraveled and Gen. Thavit was sentenced to life in Iraq's notorious Abu Ghraib prison. Gen. Thavit and his second-in-command, Maj. Gen. Rashid Flayeh Mohammed, were both released by Mr. Hussein along with thousands of other political prisoners and common criminals just before the American invasion. One of Gen. Thavit's former jailers, who gave him food and cigarettes, is now a battalion commander in his new force.

On Col. Coffman's recommendation, Gen. Petraeus visited the Commandos' base and was impressed with the troops. "When I saw them and where they were living I decided this was a horse to back," the U.S. general says today. He agreed to give the fledgling unit money to fix up its base and buy vehicles, ammunition, radios and more weapons...

Of course, there are many risks associated with Irregulars, but, in this case, the benefits of shoring up Internal Defense outweigh them.

On August 24th, Colonel Coffman was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross - the second highest award for valor in the US Army - for his work last November with the Special Police Commandos...

BLACKFIVE: Colonel James Coffman - Someone You Should Know

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