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Building Iraqi Security Forces Must Continue, Sanchez Says

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 11, 2004 – The commander of coalition forces in Iraq said today that continuing to build Iraqi security forces is key to a successful transfer of sovereignty.

Appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press," Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez told host Tim Russert that the refusal of some Iraqi army members to join in the fighting in Fallujah uncovered some "significant challenges."

"We knew that there were some risks that we were taking by standing up security forces quickly," he said, "and we also know that it's going to take us awhile to stand up reliable forces that can accept responsibility for both the internal and the external security of the country. We've got to continue to work that."

Sanchez emphasized the coalition is committed to establishing those forces and turning the security mission over to them as quickly as possible.

Handing over security to the Iraqi people will depend upon the coalition's ability to quickly stand up Iraqi security forces, especially the police, the army and the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps. "We've clearly showed some weaknesses here in the last couple of weeks," Sanchez said. "And we are retackling the problem with greater intensity to identify what leadership has to be built, and that will be all the way from the national level down to the local level."

This involves building the security forces in small units and police stations to provide the law and order in the cities, he said, and also giving Iraq the external security capacity it will need over the next couple of years. "I think it's going to take us awhile," he said, "but we're committed to it, and we'll be here until that's done."

Sanchez said the 129,000 U.S. service members currently in Iraq are an adequate number, "and we'll manage their redeployment as the operational and tactical situation dictates."

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Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez

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