More Iraqi Security Forces Being Fielded, U.S. General Says
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 2, 2005 Increasing numbers of Iraqi military and police are being trained, equipped and fielded to confront terrorists trying to destabilize the new Iraqi government, a senior U.S. military officer in Iraq said today.
"Iraqi security forces are in the lead, right now," Army Lt. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chief of Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq, told Pentagon reporters during a satellite news conference from Iraq. Dempsey's organization assists the Iraqi government in developing its security forces.
Dempsey said about 225,000 Iraqi soldiers and police will be available to provide security for Iraq's Dec. 15 nationwide election. That, he said, is in contrast to the 130,000 Iraqi security forces that were available during the Jan. 30 election.
Dempsey said current plans include establishing 10 Iraqi army infantry divisions --160,000 soldiers -- by 2007.
A priority for 2006 is to focus on Iraqi police forces, Dempsey said. There are now about 25,000 Iraqi special police that can conduct combat and commando operations as well as routine policing duties, he said.
"The special police, in particular, provide a vital function in countering the insurgents and terrorism foreign-fighter threat because they are a bridge for us," Dempsey said. After a city or town is stabilized, he explained, Iraqi special police can employ their normal policing skills to interact with the populace and root out any remaining terrorists.
Yet, "we've got to get to the point where the police are truly an element of local civil control as opposed to counterinsurgent forces," Dempsey said. That is one focus point, he said, for the Iraqi police improvement program in 2006.
Today about 75,000 regular Iraqi police are trained and equipped, Dempsey said, noting plans call for training 135,000 more regular police officers.
And there are now about 18,000 Iraqi border police, with plans to add another 9,000. About 3,000 Iraqi highway patrol officers have been trained, he said, noting another 3,000 are required.
The projected end-state level for Iraqi security forces -- including military, regular and special police, border police and other units -- is pegged at more than 340,000 members, Dempsey said. That number is likely to change, he said, as the new Iraqi government that takes over after the Dec. 15 election mulls its spending priorities.
Dempsey said about $10.6 billion was budgeted as part of a two-year plan for developing Iraqi security forces. Around $3.5 billion has been programmed, but not committed, for Iraqi security force development in fiscal year 2006.
Dempsey said his command partners with Multinational Corps Iraq commanded by Army Lt. Gen. John R. Vines, who also heads 18th Airborne Corps. MNCI provides embedded trainers and transition teams for the training and development of new Iraqi security forces, Dempsey said.
However, the majority of trainers for Iraqi basic army and police training are Iraqis, he said.