Casey Cites Continued Progress in Iraq Despite Challenges
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 30, 2005 The enemy is likely to "pull out all the stops" to disrupt the upcoming Iraqi constitutional referendum and election, but won't succeed, the commander of Multinational Force Iraq told Pentagon reporters today.
Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr. said the coalition and Iraqi strategy for success, based on historical lessons, established counterinsurgency principles and realities on the ground, is demonstrating steady progress that the terrorists can't derail.
In addition to political progress, including Sunni Arabs' commitment to participate in the upcoming referendum and election, continued progress is under way on the military front, Casey said.
Coalition forces and Iraqi security forces "continue to pressure terrorists and insurgents across Iraq." In addition, Iraqi security forces "are progressing and continuing to take a more prominent role in defending their country," the general said.
In May, Iraqi security forces conducted about 160 combined or independent operations at the company level and above, Casey said. By September, that number was up to 1,300.
Some 60,000 to 70,000 more Iraqi security forces will be available to provide security during the Oct. 15 referendum than during the January 2005 elections, he said. And by the time the next elections take place, Jan. 15, Casey said he expects to have about 100,00 more Iraqi security forces.
The growth is so significant, the general said, that he's had to ask for only 2,000 additional coalition troops to help protect the referendum and election progress this year, compared to 12,000 in January.
Quizzed by reporters about the readiness status of Iraqi forces, Casey said he's confident that they're progressing on track.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld urged reporters not to get caught up in evaluating that readiness based on numerical status levels that fluctuate based on a variety of factors, including measuring procedures.
For example, initial readiness standards two years ago measured numbers of Iraqi troops. Later, those standards were based on the number of trained troops. Later yet, those standards were based on troops who were trained and equipped. As the bar continued to rise, the numbers dipped a bit, giving an impression that readiness was declining, the secretary explained.
"Well, the numbers have moved around, and it looks like we're getting worse," Rumsfeld said. "We're not getting worse, we're getting better. Every single day, the Iraqi security forces are getting bigger and better and better trained and better equipped and more experienced."
Casey called efforts to boost the Iraqi security forces part of a far-ranging strategy that's proving successful.
"We continue to make progress every day in Iraq," he said. "Some days the steps we take are smaller than others, but we are more relentless in our progress than those who are trying to disrupt it."
"We have a strategy and a plan for success in Iraq, and we are broadly on track in achieving our goals," he said.
Casey acknowledged that the effort demands "hard work" in a challenging environment and that the month ahead will be difficult.
"But we have the best of America and coalition countries ... committed to defeating terrorism and tyranny in Iraq so that we can all live safer."