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Troop Reductions to Be Conditions-Based, Coalition Spokesman Says

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 28, 2005 – Any reduction of U.S. troops in Iraq will be based strictly on security conditions in the country and the readiness of Iraqi forces to conduct independent operations, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman in Baghdad said today.

The United States will not reduce forces until the Iraqi security forces can maintain the security environment, Air Force Brig. Gen. Donald Alston stressed in a news conference. The United States and Iraq will consult on when these conditions have been met.

Army Gen. George W. Casey, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, said July 27 that substantial troop reductions could begin as early as spring or summer if the insurgency is put down and Iraqi forces are ready to handle the security mission.

The commissioned-established conditions will cover the combat capability of the Iraqi forces as well as the ability of the Iraqi government's ministries to sustain the forces and support them logistically, Alston said. The progress of Iraqi forces, however, isn't something that can be measured only quantitatively, he explained.

"Combat capability is not just a function of numbers," he said. "It has a subjective quality in terms of the combat seasoning that is going on with Iraqi security forces, and that's, I think, more of an art - a subjective assessment - that the leaders are inputting to their assessments."

Joint readiness assessments are being conducted every month, Alston said, and the information gathered is giving leaders an idea of what the conditions for withdrawal should be. These assessments are important to ensure the transfer of authority is handled correctly, he said.

"This is critical we get this right," he said. "So we need to be as self-critical as we can be to continue to assess the readiness."

The Iraqi forces continue to make progress toward achieving readiness, Alston said. The Iraqi Army now has eight ground divisions with 29 brigade headquarters and 101 battalions, he said. The army also has a mechanized division with a brigade headquarters and two battalions and three battalions undergoing training, he added.

The training is being conducted in Iraq and Jordan by international and Iraqi trainers, he said. As the Iraqi forces complete training, they join coalition forces in the field, and their presence aids operations significantly, he said.

"The increased numbers and growing capabilities of Iraqi security forces allow us to continue to put constant pressure on the insurgency," he said.

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