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"Huge Progress" Made In Training Iraq Troops : US General

Petraeus said that according to latest declassified figures, 40 battalions of Iraqi soldiers were capable of leading counter insurgency operations with the help of US or coalition troops.

Washington (AFP) Nov 07, 2005
"Huge progress" is being made in training Iraqi combat troops, and 24 homegrown battalions have now taken control of assigned territory, the general formerly in charge of the massive program said Monday.

Lieutenant General David Petraeus said in an address that by the time of Iraq's looming election in December, it was hoped to have 230,000 trained and armed Iraq security forces operational.

The status of Iraqi army forces, and the speed at which they have been trained and deployed, has been disputed in Washington, and some opposition Democrats have accused the Bush administration and Pentagon of obscuring the true picture.

President George W. Bush has said that only when Iraqi troops are capable of maintaining security, will US troops, which last month suffered their 2,000th death in Iraq, be able to come home.

New debate flared in September, after the US commander in Iraq General George Casey admitted that only one Iraqi battalion was able to operate completely independently of US forces.

Petraeus said that according to latest declassified figures, 40 battalions of Iraqi soldiers were capable of leading counter insurgency operations with the help of US or coalition troops.

"Twenty-four of their battalions had assumed their own battle space. That is very, very significant," Petraeus, who handed over control of the training effort in July, said.

The latest figures, represent "huge progress over the course of the last 15 to 17 months" and there was "clearly still much work ahead," Petraeus said, in the speech to the Center for Strategic and International Studies think-tank.

"There is very substantial momentum in this effort," he said, as he unveiled figures showing that 211,026 Iraqi security forces had now been trained -- 99,800 of which were ministry of defence forces comprising regular army units, special forces and combat support units.

Petraeus spoke as 1,000 Iraqi troops and 2,500 US marines, sailors and soldiers continued an anti-insurgent sweep code-named Operation Steel Curtain in the Sunni Arab province of Al-Anbar.

Petraeus said that the reason so few Iraqi troops were able to operate alone was because Iraqi military insitutions were unable to provide complete logistical support for combat units.

"This is a very, very high bar for Iraqi units, and will be for some time," Petraeus said.

"The issue here is this sustainment piece, typically, so fully independent means just that. It means they don't need anything whatsoever from the coalition.

"And again at the stage of development of some of the support apparatus, that's very, very rare, indeed."

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US, Iraqi Troops Fight House-To-House On Syria Border
Baghdad (AFP) Nov 06, 2005
US and Iraqi forces fought house-to-house on the second day of their sweep of the restive western Iraqi town of Husayba, on the border with Syria, the US military said late Sunday.

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