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Thursday, March 6, 2008       Free Headline Alerts

Iraq buildup: Half a million troops and growing

BAGHDAD — Iraq plans to deploy 600,000 military and security forces by 2010 as long-delayed massive equipment deliveries have finally started to arrive.

"They have made significant progress in size, quantity and in quality, and some of the things that were on the table, in terms of difficulties, are now off the table," Lt. Gen. James Dubik, commander of Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq, said.

Dubik said Baghdad has set a goal of 600,000 military and police forces. So far, Iraq has combined forces of 531,000 — more than 180,000 in the military, 340,000 in the police, and 3,000 in special operations forces.

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Officials said the Iraq Army and security forces would continue to expand over the next two years. They said the U.S.-led coalition would help in training and equipping at least 35,000 troops annually.

Iraqi security forces have been organized into 12 divisions, 42 brigades, 146 battalions, and four commando battalions. Multinational Security Transition Command has been responsible for helping Baghdad develop, organize, train, equip and sustain the Iraqi forces.

Officials said Iraq has received more than $1 billion worth of military equipment in 2008. They said military deliveries in 2007 reached $20 million.

More than 100,000 joined the military and security forces in the last half of 2007. In 2007, officials said, the Iraq Army grew by more than 60,000, with more than 42,000 in the second half of the year. The national police grew by 8,000 in 2007, all of it in the last half of 2007.

"They are on a growth path where they can sustain this size of force, both with money and with equipment," Dubik told a briefing on March 4.

The Iraq Air Force has also grown significantly. Over the last year, the air force doubled the number of pilots while conducting more than 300 missions per week, a 10-fold increase from 2006.

Dubik said the air force plans to again double its pilots in 2008. Iraqi pilots fly U.S.-origin Huey-2 and Russian-origin Mi-17 helicopters as well as fixed-wing surveillance and reconnaissance platforms.

Still, Iraq's military and police remain plagued by inadequate leadership and logistics. Officials said Iraq has built eight of a planned 13 logistics bases.

"Logistics, actually, is making some good progress," Dubik said. "It will be until the end of this year to learn a different logistics position, but you can already see here some of the changes."

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