U.S. military emphasizes training of Iraqi military

Tuesday, December 7, 2004

The United States has launched accelerated training of Iraqi military and security forces.

Officials said the U.S.-led coalition has been heartened by the improvement in the performance of Iraqi military and security units. They said this was the result of intensified training as well as the formation of an Iraqi command hierarchy.

So far, about 115,000 Iraqis serve in the post-Saddam Hussein military and security forces, Middle East Newsline reported. Officials said that by the Jan. 30 elections Iraq would have 125,000 soldiers.

"The biggest task is not getting recruits," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Monday. "We've gotten a lot of the recruits, even despite the fact that a large number of Iraqi security forces have been killed. It's reasonably easy to equip them. The more difficult task is the middle-level leadership -- the things that aren't qualifiable as such."

Gen. George Casey, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, said he was pleased with the training and equipping of the Iraqi military and security forces. Casey said that by the end of 2004 the Iraq Army would constitute 18 battalions. He said an additional nine battalions would be deployed by the Jan. 30 elections.

[The U.S. military said on Monday that troops captured 14 Iraqis suspected of assembling car bombs near the northern Iraqi town of Beiji.

"The raid was conducted to kill or capture members of a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device cell," the military said in a statement."] The United States also plans to train and equip 45 Iraqi National Guard battalions by the end of January 2005. Officials said this would ensure the deployment of 72 battalions to provide election security.

"The Iraqi forces have continued to improve," said Brig. Gen. David Rodriguez, deputy director for regional operations at the Joint Staff Operations Directorate. "They're making progress toward being able to provide for their own security. There are about 115,000 performing those tasks right now."

Officials said the coalition has also accelerated training of Iraqi police. They said about 2,500 officers were being graduated per month from training academies. They said the number of cadets would double to 5,000 a month in 2005.

"You got a full range of effectiveness over time," Rodriguez said. "That's part of the reason why it depends on what time and what units you're asking, based on where they are in that developmental process. It has been a continual improvement from the last seven months."

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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