Coalition adapts Iraq training to breach IS defences

27th January 2016, Comments 0 comments

US-led coalition troops have adapted their training for Iraqi forces to teach them how to breach jihadist defences in larger-scale assaults on Islamic State group strongholds, officers said Wednesday.

IS, which overran large parts of Iraq in 2014, has saturated territory it controls with bombs, booby-traps and other obstacles that Iraqi forces must break through to drive the jihadists back.

Military operations in Ramadi, which was recaptured from IS in December, as well as other cities and towns showed the need for training in which soldiers combine different capabilities to breach IS defences.

The training "is based on the lessons that we learned watching the challenges in Ramadi... and Tikrit and Sinjar and Baiji," said Lieutenant General Sean MacFarland, the commander of the international operation against IS.

"It's not about defeating IEDs (improvised explosive devices); it's about breaching obstacles," MacFarland said following a training exercise at the Besmaya base near Baghdad.

During the exercise, soldiers from the 72nd Brigade combined mortar fire for smoke cover, engineers equipped with mine-clearing charges and bulldozers to open gaps in defences and infantry in armoured vehicles to provide covering fire and then advance toward the objective.

"The skills that they've been taught here now are all a product of stuff that we've bean learning from Ramadi," Brigadier James Learmont, the deputy commander of coalition ground forces in Iraq, said at Besmaya.

"You see what they've (the jihadists) got in Ramadi, these massive minefields which they put everywhere," he said. "Ramadi as a city is littered with improvised explosive devices, booby traps."

"We literally had to go back to the drawing board and say, 'OK, what do we need in order to actually defeat this?' And it is coming back to (this) breaching," he said.

Coalition forces have been training Iraqi troops since 2014, but the combined arms exercise at Besmaya -- where Spanish forces have been leading the training -- is a more advanced level of instruction.

"In the past... we concentrated on firing the rifle, basic skills. But now we've advanced past the basic skills to... what we would describe as collective training," Learmont said.

© 2016 AFP

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