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Iraqi Security Forces Steadily Improving, But Still Need Support

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 29, 2005 – U.S. and coalition initiatives to create well-trained and -equipped Iraqi security forces are paying off, with Iraqis taking on more of the fight, a U.S. Central Command general said Nov. 28 at the Heritage Foundation here.

"Iraqi security forces are fighting hard. They're fighting well. They are not cracking under pressure, as you see in some armies, and they are making a tremendous contribution," Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, CENTCOM's deputy director of plans and strategy, told the audience.

Kimmitt, who divides his time between Iraq and CENTCOM's Tampa headquarters, said Iraq's security forces, which now number about 200,000, are steadily improving in capability.

They're taking on more of the fight, as evidenced during recent operations in Tal Afar and in the Euphrates River Valley, he said.

"We believe that that is generally the operational concept that we've been working toward," Kimmitt said. "It's starting to pay fruit now."

But Kimmitt acknowledged that the Iraqis' competency levels vary widely, and they're not yet ready to handle fight alone, without coalition help. "I'm not one to stand here and suggest that means they can handle the entire responsibility for military operations in Iraq, and it will be some time before they are able to," he said.

For now, as they steadily gain capability, Iraq's security forces are demonstrating their mettle, not just in combat missions, but also in the all-important follow-on operations, he said. This involves bringing in rebuilding supplies, medical help and other services to help affected communities return to normalcy.

It also prevents insurgents from returning, preventing what Kimmitt described as a "whack-a-mole" operational concept: "fight them here, then fight them here, then fight them here."

Rather, he said, combined coalition and Iraqi forces can move on to the next location to root out insurgents while Iraqi security forces remain behind to help maintain stability.

"So the military comes in solely for the purpose of targeting the insurgents," he said. "When that is done, it is hoped that we can quickly turn it over to legitimate local governance as quickly as possible."

Kimmitt praised the U.S. servicemembers who are making these advances possible.

"They are absolutely magnificent. They take your breath away. They are courageous, they are brave, and they are dedicated to their mission," he said. "They are fighting an enemy that shows no restraint or follows no conventional rules, and our troops, by contrast, are well-led."

U.S. troops know they have the support of their friends, families and the American public, he said.

And although they're well aware of the ongoing debate about U.S. operations in Iraq, the troops are proud to serve in a country that allows this type public discourse, Kimmitt said.

"Rest assured that they're not only the best military we've ever had, but they also are a military that is deeply rooted in the democratic traditions of civilian control," he said. "They are doing their duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and a thousand other places around the world tonight."

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