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Sunday, March 20, 2005

Troop Levels In Iraq

The Defense Secretary made some interesting comments on the troop levels in Iraq; This particular answer was delivered on Friday in regards to a question involving the withdrawel of some coalition nations from Iraq...
... Now you ask the question of what about the total level of security forces, the total level of security forces are going up because the Iraqi security force are going up, and they're part of this coalition as well. Indeed, they're increasingly the most important part of the coalition, set aside the U.S. They're now up to, I believe, something like 145,000 -- I looked at it today -- trained and equipped of all types -- border patrol, policemen, army, special police commandoes, you name it -- and they're on a trajectory to continue to go up over 200,000.

Coalition forces will continue to pare down. We're now moving from 152(,000) at peak, I believe, where we overlapped, as you'll recall, during the election period. We're dropping down, I think, to something like 17 brigades over the coming month, maybe six weeks. We'll be down probably to 135(,000), 140,000 in that period. And as the Iraqi security forces go up and as the insurgency is dealt with over the period ahead, why, we ought to be able to adjust those levels. That will be a function of what General Abizaid recommends, General Casey recommends and what General Myers and General Pace and I recommend to the President. It's not possible to pinpoint a specific number, but we feel very good about the progress being made in the country.

And it's partly the security forces, it's partly their capabilities. And as we strengthen the command and control of the Iraqi forces, as they improve their sustainability and their mobility, their logistics capability, as they get a little battle-hardened -- some of them came right out of training. You know, you walk out of training and into a war zone, which is what they're in, a tough insurgency, that's not easy. But after six months, they get better at it, and that's what's happening. And the longer they're there, the better they're getting at it. And General Casey has been quite impressed with how they're doing.

So over the period ahead, we'll see some adjustments in numbers, but I would be the last person to think I'm smart enough to know what that rate at which their competence and capabilities will proceed relative to the intensity of the insurgency, because one of the other things that affects the insurgency is the extent to which the Iraqi people are willing to provide intelligence and tip in favor of their government.

And having had a successful election, they showed they've got courage. Their next task is to put in place this new government, transitional government. Then they're going to draft a constitution. Then they're going to vote on the constitution in October. Then they're going to have elections under the new constitution in December. And during that period, armed forces -- total, everybody's, coalition and Iraqi -- will undoubtedly bulge somewhat during those key election periods, but in the aggregate over time, one would think the non-Iraqi members of the coalition could adjust downward as the capabilities of the Iraqis increase.

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