The United States does not plan to capture cities
under the control of Shi'ite or Sunni insurgents.
Officials said the Bush administration has decided to leave such a
mission to Iraq's new military and security forces.
include Faluja, Ramadi and Samara, and U.S. officials said they don't expect
these cities to participate in national elections in January 2005.
They said the
administration acknowledges that the Baghdad government could require
another year until it was capable of battling Sunni and Shi'ite insurgents
without the intervention of the U.S.-led coalition, Middle East Newsline reported.
But the Defense Department has concluded that some Iraqi military and
security units could be ready for independent combat operations against
insurgents by the end of 2004. So far, the central government in Baghdad
lacks control of a range of cities, most of them in the Sunni Triangle.
"Part of that strategy is that Iraqi security forces must be properly
equipped, trained and led to participate in these security operations, and
then once it's over can sustain the peace in a given city," Gen. Richard
Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told a briefing on Sept. 7.
"And while U.S. forces or coalition forces on their own can do just about
anything we want to do, it makes a lot more sense that it be a sustained
operation, one that can be sustained by Iraqi security forces."
Myers said he envisions an initial Iraqi effort to recapture cities
under insurgency control in December 2004. He did not say whether the United
States would participate in such missions on any level.
"By December, we're going to have a substantial number of Iraqi security
forces equipped, trained and led to conduct
the kind of operations I was talking about," Myers said.
Other officials said the Iraqi military and security units were as much
as a year away from conducting major operations against Sunni and Shi'ite
insurgents, with an estimated force level of 35,000. They said the United
States was preparing to exclude several insurgency-controlled cities from
Iraqi elections in January. Residents of those cities would be allowed to
vote in so-called safe zones.
Still, the Pentagon has detected an improvement in the performance of
Iraq's military and security forces. Officials said that over the last
month, Iraqi and U.S.-led coalition forces have killed up to 2,500
insurgents in joint operations.
"Now is that a lot?" Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld asked. "Yes. Does
that hurt them? Yes. Is it a lot out of 25 million people in a country? No.
Is the conflict, the offense being effectively waged? The answer, yes it is.
Everywhere at once? No."
On Thursday, Iraqi and U.S. combat units launched a joint operation
against insurgents in northern Iraq. Officials said the target was Tall
Afar, an insurgency-controlled city regarded as the hub for Al
Qaida-inspired insurgents who arrive from Syria to fight the U.S.-led
coalition in Iraq.
In August, Iraqi forces were deployed in the battle against the
Iranian-backed Mahdi Army in Kut and Najaf. They said Iraqi police and
National Guard units continue to patrol those cities.
Rumsfeld said the Pentagon has revised its figures regarding the number
of trained and equipped Iraqi forces. He said about 95,000 Iraqi troops have
been trained and equipped, among 205,000 on the payroll. The secretary said
the number of trained and equipped Iraqi troops will increase to more than
200,000 by the middle of 2005.
"As they gain more confidence, as the chain of command gets stood up
better, why, obviously they'll be doing more and more," Rumsfeld said.