Casey: Iraqi Forces' Development 'On Track'
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 2, 2005 Iraqi soldiers and police are increasingly becoming more capable of taking over security duties from U.S. and coalition troops, the U.S. military's top ground commander in Iraq said on two talk shows today.
"The development of the Iraqi security forces is very much on track," Army Gen. George Casey asserted on ABC's "This Week" Sunday television talk show. Over the past two years, about 190,000 new Iraqi police and soldiers have been trained and equipped to conduct anti-terrorism operations, the general said.
As part of the U.S. strategy in Iraq, the Iraqi security forces are being trained and equipped to eventually operate without coalition assistance, Casey said.
"Anything we do with the Iraqis has to be sustainable by them as we draw down and as we leave," the general explained.
High standards account for the recent readiness rating downgrades of some of those new Iraqi security units, Casey said. During Capitol Hill hearings last week, senior U.S. officers told legislators that such readiness rating changes are not uncommon in the American military.
Later in the day on CNN's "Late Edition" talk show, Casey noted, "the progress that we're making with the Iraqi security forces is significant."
U.S. transition teams embedded in new Iraqi military and police units "are having a great impact" by providing insights into the readiness of those units, he said.
The new Iraqi units are ranked according to capability, the general explained, with level one indicating the ability to operate independently of U.S. and coalition assistance. Casey said few Iraqi units are now capable of operating autonomously.
"We know, because of logistics support (and) the Iraqi institutions that have to be built, it's going to be awhile before the Iraqi military gets there," Casey said.
One Iraqi unit is now rated as level one, he noted, with about 30 other units rated at level two, which means they're capable of functioning with some proficiency with U.S. assistance. Another Iraqi unit rating is level three, which indicates a much lower capability of operating independently in the field.
Iraqi units are becoming more proficient, Casey said. In May, there were fewer than 200 combined or independent Iraqi operations, he said. In September, there were more than 1,300 such operations, the general said.
"These are Iraqi forces either participating with us in operations or conducting their own independent operations," Casey said. "They get better every day."
Any reduction of U.S. forces in Iraq "will be conditions-based and it will be progressive around the country as local Iraqi security forces become more and more ready," Casey concluded.