Washington (AFP) Sept 6, 2007
Iraq's military is at least 12-18 months away from assuming combat duties from US soldiers, while its police force is so corrupt that it should be abolished, an independent report said Thursday.
The report by Marine General James Jones, the former top US commander in Europe, was the latest in a flurry of progress updates on the unpopular Iraq mission, in a pivotal 10-day period for US policy in the war-torn nation.
President George W. Bush's administration has made training and equipping Iraqi forces a key goal in Iraq, seeing their capacity to eventually fight alone as the pathway to US troop withdrawals.
In its report, a 20-member commission chaired by Jones said Iraqi forces were improving, "but not at a rate sufficient to meet their essential security responsibilities."
The congressionally mandated assessment also delivered a scathing indictment of Iraq's police force, saying it was crippled by sectarianism, and said the force's overarching Ministry of Interior was "a ministry in name only."
Democratic Senate Majority leader Harry Reid said the Jones report added to a body of evidence which he said proved that Bush's military "surge" in Iraq was not working.
"It is discouraging that the president stubbornly claims his failed policy is working even as this latest report describes many Iraqi security forces as focused more on fostering civil war than on suppressing it," he said.
Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton said the report added to her concerns that little progress was being, or would be made in Iraq.
"I am deeply concerned that we're not going to see any different in 12 to 18 months, but we'll see more American casualties," she told Jones at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The clamor for an early withdrawal of US troops has grown as General David Petraeus and Baghdad ambassador Ryan Crocker, the top two Americans in Iraq, get set to testify in Congress next week just ahead of a White House review of the seven-month-old surge.
The Jones report said that for some time to come, Iraq's military will continue to rely on the US-led coalition for combat duties, logistical support and training.
"The commission assesses that in the next 12 to 18 months there will be continued improvement in their readiness and capability, but not the ability to operate independently," it said.
Jones added in the hearing that the army could operate alone "due to a continuing lack of logistics, supply, mobility and effective national command and control."
The report by the blue-ribbon panel, whose members comprised veteran military and police chiefs, said Iraqi military units were "severely deficient in combat support and combat service support capabilities."
But it added that the military, especially the army, showed "clear evidence of developing the baseline infrastructures that lead to the successful formation of a national defense capability."
The commission concluded that the 26,000-strong police force needs to be purged of corrupt officers and Shiite militants suspected of complicity in sectarian killings, and reshaped into a smaller, more elite organization.
"The Iraqi Police Service is incapable today of providing security at a level sufficient to protect Iraqi neighborhoods from insurgents and sectarian violence," it said.
"Sectarianism in its units undermines its ability to provide security; the force is not viable in its current form. The National Police should be disbanded and reorganized."
Defense Department spokesman Geoff Morrell said Wednesday the Pentagon did "not believe it is necessary to disband the national police force."
But he added: "We also acknowledge there have been real sectarian problems within the national police force. We recognize that. The Iraqi government recognizes that."
The Jones report said the police force's supervising ministry was at the heart of the problem.
"The Ministry of Interior is a ministry in name only," it said, stressing its "ineffective leadership" and saying it was tainted by corruption and sectarianism.
In the BBC World Service poll of 23,000 people in 22 countries, 67 percent said they backed a troop withdrawal inside a year, while 49 percent believed the United States would permanently leave troops in the country.
Three in five Americans polled -- 61 percent -- thought US forces should leave within a year, with 24 percent favouring immediate withdrawal. Thirty-two percent said they should stay until security improves.
In some of the countries in the US-led coalition a majority supported a pullout within a year -- 65 percent of Britons, 63 percent of South Koreans and 63 percent of Australians.
In only three countries was there less than a majority for such a withdrawal -- 17 percent of Indians, 44 percent of Filipinos and 45 percent of Kenyans.
Overall only one in four -- 23 percent -- thought foreign troops should remain in Iraq until security improves, according to the global survey carried out for the BBC by polling firm GlobeScan, together with the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland in the United States.
GlobeScan President Doug Miller said the message from the study, carried out between the end of May and the end of July this year, was fairly clear.
"The weight of global public opinion, and indeed American opinion, is opposed to the Bush administration's current policy of letting security conditions in Iraq dictate the timing of US troop withdrawal," he said.
Steven Kull, director of PIPA, said: "While majorities in 19 of 22 countries polled want the US to be out of Iraq within a year, in no country does a majority think it will do so."
"It seems the US is widely viewed as planning to make Iraq part of its long term military footprint in the Middle East," he added.
The poll came after Iraq war commander US General David Petraeus hinted at US troop cuts by March, as he prepared to give crunch testimony to the US Congress next week on President George W. Bush's surge strategy.
Asked if the current 162,000-strong US presence in Iraq could be drawn down by March 2008, the general said in an interview with a US television station from Baghdad: "Your calculations are about right."
Source: Agence France-PresseCommunity
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