Saturday, January 19, 2008

Iraqi Army to Take Full Control of Security by 2009

Via Liberty Pundit, Iraqi security forces are projected to take control of all of Iraq's provinces in 18 months:

Iraq's army and police could be ready to take over security in all 18 provinces by the end of this year as the U.S. military moves toward a less prominent role in the country, U.S. officials said on Thursday.

"We look at it every month. We make recommendations. I think that if we continue along the path we're on now, we'll be able to do that by the end of 2008," Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, the No. 2 commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, said when asked when Iraqi forces could take the lead in all provinces.

He said that a joint operation under way led by Iraqi troops and supported by U.S. troops against al Qaeda militants in the northern city of Mosul was a model for the future.

"That's how I see our role frankly in the future here," he told Pentagon reporters via videolink from Baghdad.

Iraqi security forces are now in control of nine provinces after assuming control of Iraqi's southern oil hub, Basra, in December. Iraqi forces are also expected to take control in Anbar province, a one-time insurgent stronghold, as early as March.

The ability of Iraqi forces to take the lead in security operations is vital to President George W. Bush's plan to withdraw 20,000 U.S. troops by the middle of this year.

The troops were sent to Iraq last year in a bid to quell sectarian violence in a war now in its sixth year. With U.S. troop levels up to about 155,000 now, violence levels have since dropped sharply.
Look for the Bush administration's antiwar opponents to cite this news as justifying a complete and immediate withdrawal from Iraq.

Yet, strategically,
prudent forecasts suggest the need for at least 100,000 troops to remain in country, perhaps for a decade or more, to protect the security gains from the surge, and to guarantee a stable environment in which to consolidate the Iraqi democracy.