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Iraqi Security Forces Top Armed Services Hearing Agenda

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 3, 2005 – "The coalition must focus our efforts on reaching the point where we can shift our mission to fighting the counterinsurgency ourselves to developing Iraqi capacity to conduct those operations," Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee today.

It was developing the Iraqis capacity to fight the counterinsurgency that became a topic of discussion during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing today. Myers noted that the training process is moving along.

"Since this past July, the coalition has accomplished a great deal in improving the quality of the Iraqi security forces on duty," Myers said. "Many of these forces are much better trained and equipped. And if you look at their performance in Fallujah this past October and during the election, you can see that."

He said the U.S. military has also gained a better understanding of the Iraqi forces' capabilities. This new understanding came with the realization that for the Iraqis to be able to operate independently, they were going to need the military's continued help to build their leadership, command and control, and intelligence capabilities.

"It's units that are really most important," said Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who also testified. "We had on June 28 only one (Iraqi) battalion that was considered deployable and there are now 45 such units. My sense is that's one of the most important measures."

As for, Myers pointed out it will be difficult to track numbers of Iraqi forces without robust Iraqi defense and interior ministries.

While training and equipping the Iraqi forces has its challenges, Myers said that the successful Iraqi elections on Jan. 30 were a boost to recruitment. In a two-day period after the election, 2,500 Iraqis a day have tried to sign up for the security forces.

And there are unique methods being employed to train the Iraqis. "We have already instituted some assistance, training support where we embed trainers with Iraqi units," Myers said. "Our forces have also trained the national guard forces who, in many cases, work right alongside our forces. So (the embedding process) is just an extension of that."

Also, Wolfowitz said, there is more funding being requested in for the training efforts. "The president and Secretary Rumsfeld are committed to providing the resources needed for this endeavor," Wolfowitz said. "The forthcoming request for supplemental funding will include a substantial funding request for expansion of the Iraqi security force effort."

As Myers had already mentioned, the Iraqis are making strides in the effort to take responsibility for their own security.

Committee chairman Virginia Sen. John Warner praised them. "The Iraqi forces deserve great credit in showing their professionalism to step up to deal with the polling places and the security situation to enable this election," Warner said. "Coalition forces were at the ready, but in the words of [Multinational Force Iraq commander] Gen. [George] Casey: 'They were really there but not called on. The Iraqis did the job.'"

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Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz
Gen. Richard Myers, USAF

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