In testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Feb. 1, Austin
and a senior official asserted that Iraq would not face any security gap
when the State Department replaces the U.S. military in October. Austin
said Iraq's military and security forces, despite heavy pressure, have
remained apolitical and increasingly effective.
"I've watched this force develop over time," Austin said. "They began
with very little and, if you look at where they are now, it's truly
The U.S. military assessment was more optimistic than that of some
government departments. The Office of the Special Inspector-General has
issued a report that warned of serious gaps in Iraq's military and security
forces, including logistics, equipment and discipline.
"They do have the abilities to conduct internal defenses," Austin said.
Instead, Iraq's greatest challenge would be threats from its neighbors.
Austin said Iraq would require at least another two years to establish a
credible air defense.
U.S. ambassador to Baghdad James Jeffrey said the civilian mission in
Iraq would include 17,000 people in 15 locations. Jeffrey said the civilian
security presence would be deployed at three defense hubs and three police
"There has been an extraordinary amount of effort by the military on all
locations where we are taking over," Jeffrey said.
The ambassador said the State Department has formed an air wing of 20
aircraft in Iraq. Jeffrey said the fleet would be doubled starting from