Officials Continue to Note Progress Amid Violence in Iraq
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 24, 2006 The idea that progress and violence co-exist in Iraq is fast becoming a mantra for officials both in Baghdad and here.
Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commander of Multinational Force Iraq, made this statement earlier this month during a visit here, and he stressed it again today in a Baghdad news conference. The idea is that people should not obsess on the violence to the exclusion of the progress the Iraqis are making.
The security forces are a case in point, according to State Department and Multinational Force Iraq officials in Baghdad.
The Iraqi security forces continue to make progress in the nation. Casey said the progress may be uneven, but both army and police units are shouldering the security burden in Iraq.
The numbers tell part of the story. The Iraqi Defense Ministry has a total of about 131,600 servicemembers – 129,700 in the army, about 800 in the air force and 1,100 in the navy. The Interior Ministry has about 180,800 personnel, with 128,000 assigned to the local police, 24,400 in the national police and 28,400 in the category “other MOI forces” – mostly in the border police. All the forces are listed as being “trained and equipped.”
When they attain full strength, there will be 325,000 security forces personnel – a number the Iraqis hope to meet by the end of the year, officials said. There are currently 10,000 Iraqis in training.
Casey said earlier this month that building the Iraqi security forces is a three-step process. The first step is to train and equip units. This entails recruiting, forming units, putting units through training and providing them with the right equipment for the mission, the general said.
Step 2 is to put Iraqi units in the lead with coalition support, Casey said. Currently, the Iraqi army has six division headquarters, 30 brigades and 89 battalions in the lead. The latest of these is the 1st Battalion, 1st Brigade, 7th Iraqi Army Division, which officially assumed its area of responsibility in Ramadi Oct. 14.
The final step is to develop independence in the Iraqi security forces. This means building institutional capacity and ministerial capacity, State Department officials said. It means helping the Iraqis build logistics, intelligence, engineering, communications and medical support capabilities.
Casey said that the Iraqi security forces are 75 percent through the second step. Making the forces independent will be the thrust of efforts in 2007, he said.