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Official Warns Against Misinterpreting Iraqi Forces Report

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 21, 2005 – A Pentagon report detailing the readiness of Iraqi security forces should not be interpreted to mean that Iraqis aren't meeting expectations, a military official in Baghdad said today.

In a briefing from Baghdad, Air Force Brig. Gen. Donald Alston, spokesman for Multinational Force Iraq, said the report -- which shows that the majority of Iraqi forces aren't ready to operate independently -- should be assessed using all the facts and the history of the situation.

"The reality is, we've been building an army from scratch for the past year under combat conditions," he said. "These forces have come an extraordinary way in a year."

Some Iraqi units are capable of operating independently, and the rest of the forces are continuing progress in training and are gaining valuable experience from joint operations, Alston said.

"They're getting battle-hardened, they are training, and they are fighting," he said. "That is giving them experience that's hard to quantify."

Alston said the performance of Iraqi forces is being scrutinized closely because the United States wants to make sure it fulfills its obligation to the Iraqis and gives them the proper training to act independently.

"We have a great responsibility to get it right," he said.

The training program for the Iraqi forces is on track, Alston said, and the people continue to show courage by volunteering to serve even amid targeted terrorist attacks on police and military recruiting stations.

"The will of the Iraqi people cannot be broken," he said. "They are resilient, they are determined, and they are strong. The people of Iraq want a constitution and they want a constitutionally based, democratically elected government, and those things are coming."

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