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Bush Pleased With Progress of Iraqi Security Forces

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 5, 2005 – President Bush said today he's pleased with the progress Iraqis are making in developing a military capable of handling the security challenges of the future.

Bush spoke to the press following a meeting with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld; Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Army Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, former commander of Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq. Rumsfeld and the generals briefed the president on the status of Iraqi forces and coalition operations in Iraq.

Bush said the United States continues on the offensive against terrorists worldwide, and he warned that terrorists will try to disrupt Iraq's Oct. 15 constitutional referendum. He added that he is pleased with the progress Iraqi security forces are making. "They make a difference on the battlefield," the president said.

Roughly 192,100 members of the Iraqi security forces are trained and equipped. This includes 104,300 members of units under the Iraqi Ministry of Interior -- police, highway patrol, border patrol and other forces -- and 87,800 servicemembers under the Iraqi Ministry of Defense.

Recruiting for the Iraqi security forces is going well. Pentagon officials said insurgent and terrorist attacks have not stopped Iraqis from coming forward to serve their country.

Bush said he is encouraged by steps the Iraqis are taking to ensure a quality military force. "(There is a) quality-control program in place to make sure that the troops we train are capable of taking the fight to the enemy," he said. "Over 30 percent of the Iraqi troops are in the lead on these offensive operations."

When the coalition returned sovereignty to the Iraqis in June 2004, only one Iraqi battalion was capable of leading offensive operations, Pentagon officials said. Today, they noted, more than 30 Iraqi battalions are capable of leading counterinsurgency operations.

Coalition forces continue to provide higher-echelon support to Iraqi units. The Iraqis are just establishing division and higher level commands in their military, so coalition forces help with air support, logistics, maintenance and command and control, Pentagon officials said.

Other military support functions also must be set up within the Iraqi Ministry of Defense. These include: personnel, finance, intelligence, inspector general, and policy, officials said. All these are important to creating a truly independent military, but this does not mean that Iraqi brigades and battalions cannot take the fight to the enemy, officials said.

"I've told the American people all along that our troops will stay there as long as necessary," Bush said. "We will do the job; we will train these folks; and, as (the Iraqis) become more capable, we will be able to bring folks home with the honor they have earned."

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