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Iraqis Progress in Conditions for Troop Withdrawal, Official Says

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 11, 2005 – Iraqis are continuing progress toward meeting the two primary conditions for the reduction of coalition forces in Iraq, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman said today.

In a press briefing from Baghdad, Army Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, a Multinational Force Iraq deputy chief of staff, stressed that the decision to move U.S. troops out of Iraq will be based primarily on the political process in the country and on the training and capability of Iraqi security forces.

But if progress continues the way it has, it is possible that there could be "fairly substantial reductions" in coalition forces after the elections in December, Lynch said. He noted that the coalition is not setting timelines on conditions for troop withdrawal. "The timelines are not relevant," he said. "What is relevant is that those conditions are indeed met."

"We see significant progress on the political process," Lynch said. The Iraqis are on track to meet the Aug. 15 deadline for drafting a constitution, he said.

"We're optimistic that since they've got the right people now talking through the issues, that there will be progress ... and they will adhere to the timeline that's been established," he said.

Polls show that the Iraqi people have increased confidence in their government, are optimistic about the future and intend to vote in the referendum and election, Lynch said. Talks with Sunni leaders have given coalition officials confidence that up to 80 percent of Sunni Arabs will participate in the elections, he added.

Iraqi security forces also continue to progress in training and operations, Lynch said. This week, 41 brigade-level operations were conducted throughout Iraq, all of which were combined efforts of coalition and Iraqi forces. Also, two sectors in Iraq - one in Baghdad and one in the Diyala province - have been turned over to the control of Iraqi forces, he said.

"We are amazed, on a daily basis, with the capabilities and improvements of the Iraqi security forces," he said.

Reconstruction efforts throughout Iraq are further strengthening the country's development, Lynch said. Construction began this week on a $13.1 million electrical distribution project that will bring power to about 128,000 residents in Sadr City, and a $17.2 million maternity and children's hospital there is about 40 percent complete, he said. Both projects are slated to be completed by the spring of next year.

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