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Iraqi Government Moving Forward

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 8, 2005 – With the recent elections of Iraq's president, vice presidents, speaker and prime minister, that country's transitional national government is moving ahead.

The coalition is also making progress in training Iraqi security forces, with the number of those forces "trained and equipped" topping 150,000.

April 7 the Iraqi Transitional National Assembly elected Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a Shiia Muslim as prime minister. In a news conference following the announcement, Jaafari said he will appoint a cabinet within two weeks.

On April 6, the assembly elected Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani as president and Adel Abdel Mahdi and Ghazi al-Yawar as deputy presidents. Yawar is a Sunni sheik and served as the president of the interim government. Mahdi is a Shiia who served as minister of finance.

Hachim al-Hasani, a Sunni, was elected speaker of the assembly April 3.

Senior defense officials are pleased with the announcements. They had been worried that Iraq could lose the momentum gained following the Jan. 30 National Assembly elections.

Army Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. Central Command, said March 27 in Mosul that he was encouraged by all the political maneuvering going on in regard to the formation of the new government.

The National Assembly has several challenges ahead. First, its members must write the permanent Iraqi constitution by Aug. 15. If they accomplish that, there must be a referendum on the constitution by Oct. 15. If the constitution passes muster, there will be elections for a permanent government by Dec. 15.

The Transitional Administrative Law allows the National Assembly one six-month extension to write the constitution - which would also move the rest of the schedule.

Trained and equipped Iraqi security forces number 152,617, divided between the ministries of interior and defense, according to U.S. State Department April 6 statistics. The 66,895 soldiers in the Iraqi army, 186 in the air force and 521 in the Iraqi navy come under the purview of the Ministry of Defense.

Iraqi military forces have taken over many duties formerly performed by coalition forces. This includes the Iraqi 40th Brigade patrolling some of Baghdad's hotspots. Iraqi brigades also have responsibility in portions of Fallujah, Mosul and Tikrit, officials in Baghdad said.

The Ministry of Interior now has 55,862 police and highway patrolmen trained and equipped, officials said. There are also 29,153 civil intervention forces, border police, police commandos and the like.

Each week, between 1,500 and 3,000 new members of the security forces go on active duty.

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