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Iraqi Security Forces Improving

Iraqi forces break down into two groups, those managed by the defense ministry and those by the interior ministry. However, their duties often overlap. There are some 90,000 Iraqi army soldiers and around 105,000 MOI forces, including around 10,000 special police commandos and about 7,000 in public order battalions who are trained to fight insurgent forces.

Washington (UPI) Oct 13, 2005
The Pentagon's latest assessment of Iraq's nascent security forces says there are over 200,000 Iraqis trained and equipped to fight, according to U.S. officials and documents.

That translates to nearly 120 army and police combat battalions, over 36 of which are "in the lead" in the fight, according to a senior U.S. official. Another 52 are operating alongside American forces in Iraq, with varying degrees of competence.

That number is significant to American interests because the sooner Iraqi forces are able to plan and carry out their own security operations, the sooner the United States can withdraw its military in large numbers, or focus its forces on areas where there are still pitched battles being fought against insurgents.

That handover process is already underway in Baghdad. Four critical neighborhoods in the center of the city, including restive Sadr City, are under the daily control of Iraqi army forces organized under the first functional Iraqi division headquarters.

The U.S. military and Iraqi government recently formalized a process for determining when American forces can be withdrawn, said Lt. Gen. Gene Renuart, the Joint Staff director of strategic plans and policy, Thursday.

"The Coalition-Iraqi Joint Commission to Transfer Security Responsibility" was created in the last month to assess Iraq's status region by region. As an area is both stabilized and credible national security forces put in place, it will be handed over, Renuart said. The commission has not yet acted, although parts of Iraq are already under national control, notably, the entire province of Sulaymaniyah. The southeastern portion of Diyala province is likely to be handed over next, according to U.S. officials there. A U.S. brigade will be leaving the region in several months and is slated to be replaced with a single battalion about a third of its size. Most of the security operations will be in the hands of Iraqi forces.

The handover depends on four things: the level of present and projected future insurgent activity; the readiness and capability of Iraqi forces; the readiness of relevant government institutions; and the ability of coalition forces to reinforce Iraqi forces in the region if necessary.

Two days before Iraq's national constitutional referendum, those numbers mean that Iraqi forces will be the public face of security on voting day. American forces have been instructed to stay as far from polling places as possible so the referendum will have "an Iraqi face," rather than seeming to be forced on the country by the U.S. occupying force.

As it was during the national election in January, Iraqi police will secure the areas closest to polling places, few of which have been announced in advance -- even to the police and Iraqi army -- for security reasons. Iraqi combat forces will secure the next ring, and American forces will enforce a curfew and no-drive rule, as well as serve as a quick-reaction force in the event of an attack.

Iraqi forces break down into two groups, those managed by the defense ministry and those by the interior ministry. However, their duties often overlap. There are some 90,000 Iraqi army soldiers and around 105,000 MOI forces, including around 10,000 special police commandos and about 7,000 in public order battalions who are trained to fight insurgent forces.

The number of Iraqi forces had been in flux since the end of the war but seems to have stabilized since the January election. Immediately following the war, large numbers of Iraqis were swiftly recruited for the nation's defense forces but were not well screened and were poorly trained and inadequately equipped.

That became clear in April 2004 when nearly half of Iraqi's forces called on to fight in twin uprisings in Fallujah and Najaf abandoned their positions. Some 10 percent joined the other side.

By November 2004, however, there was a significant change. Some 3,000 Iraqi soldiers, having undergone more intense training and partnered with American forces, fought in the battle to take back Fallujah and held their ground.

That same month police forces -- particularly those in Ninevah province, where Mosul is the capital -- were attacked by insurgent forces in a coordinated assault on 44 stations. Most abandoned their weapons and posts. Those forces are still being rebuilt.

A U.S. State Department poll taken in June and July showed that more than 83 percent of Mosul residents did not feel safe in their neighborhoods. Around 72 percent of Baghdadis share those fears.

However, people in the other regions of Iraq responded to the same poll that they largely feel safe. More than half the residents of the largely Sunni Tikrit and Baquba, two towns with functioning local police and Sunni-led Iraqi army forces, said they feel "very safe."

One indication of progress on security in Iraq is the number of intelligence tips provided to U.S. and Iraqi forces. According to the Pentagon's latest report to Congress on Iraq, in March there were 483 tips offered. In August that number had grown to 3,341.

Those tips may indicate two things, according to U.S. military officials in Iraq: first, growing confidence in the ability of coalition and Iraqi forces to act on the information, and second, growing frustration with the insurgent's disruptions to daily life and stability.

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Bush Determined To Change Mideast: Card
Washington (UPI) Oct 13, 2005
The Bush administration is committed to "changing the nature" of the Middle East, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card said this week.

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