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US Commander In Iraq Acknowledges Military Stretched

"Folks are stretched and they are doing an excellent job and they are certainly accomplishing their mission," Casey said.
by Staff Writers
Diwaniyah, Iraq (AFP) Jan 26, 2006
The commander of multinational forces in Iraq, General George Casey, acknowledged Thursday that US military strength around the world is stretched, during a handover ceremony in the south of the country.

"The forces are stretched. I don't think there is any question about that," he said in response to questions about two reports to that effect.

He was speaking in the city of Diwaniyah as responsibility for the security of a vast swathe of the south was turned over to Iraq's 8th army division.

"Folks are stretched and they are doing an excellent job and they are certainly accomplishing their mission," he added.

Analysts warned in the two reports released in the United States that the US military had become perilously overstretched by its deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

One report was by an outside expert hired by the Pentagon. The other was by people who worked under former president Bill Clinton, led by former secretary of state Madeleine Albright and former defense secretary William Perry.

"This strain, if not soon relieved, will have highly corrosive and potentially long-term effects on the force," the report by the Clinton people said.

US military strategy has been to train up Iraqi police and army units with the eventual hope of turning over security duties to them and allow US forces to withdraw from the country.

Thursday's turnover covered a large chunk of the south, including the entire provinces of Diwaniya and Kut and parts of three other provinces which had been under the control of Polish, Salvadoran, Bulgarian and Ukrainian troops.

"This is the first such kind of battlespace assumption in the whole of Iraq," said a statement from the coalition, referring to the size of the area handed over.

The area, sandwiched between US and British areas of control, was considered one of the quietest parts of the country.

The insurgency is concentrated in the mainly Sunni western and central parts of the country, while the predominantly Shiite south and the Kurdish north have been much calmer.

Casey maintained that the handover had nothing to do with the pressures on US troops but rather was a recognition that the Iraqi forces were ready.

The US-led multinational forces will remain in the area to provide support for the Iraqi division which is not completely capable of functioning independently.

"The 8th division is taking the lead but still requires our support in logistics, transition teams and fire support," said Casey.

The division's commander, Major General Othman Ali Farhood, confirmed there would be an ongoing process of increasing the division's capacity in cooperation with coalition forces.

"With our capabilities, we are able to take over responsibility of the sector but combined training will continue," he said.

Source: Agence France-Presse

Related Links

Iraq And Afghanistan Puts US Military Under Critical Strain
Washington (AFP) Jan 25, 2006
The US military has become perilously overstretched by the strain of repeated military deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, two reports warned Thursday.

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