Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Rumsfeld Weighs Boost In Iraqi Forces

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said that he may approve proposals by the Iraqi government and the top U.S. commander in Baghdad to increase the size of the Iraqi security forces. "I'm very comfortable with the increases they've proposed and the accelerations in achievement of some of their targets," Rumsfeld told reporters at the Pentagon, when asked about a report by CBS News that Gen. George Casey, the top commander in Iraq, was going to recommend an increase of up to 100,000 soldiers and police. Rumsfeld said he hoped to have a meeting on this later Tuesday and "come to some closure on it." "Now it's simply a matter of our pressing forward and getting our portion of the funding from the Congress and working to see that it's executed," Rumsfeld said. He did not say how much extra U.S. money would be required.The current plan is to develop 325,000 Iraqi security forces, including the army, police and border control forces. The number trained and equipped thus far is about 310,000, and the final target is expected to be reached by year's end. The total number of Iraqi security forces that are available for duty is less than the official figure of 310,000, since about one-quarter of them are on leave or otherwise not available at any given time, U.S. officials say. Casey referred to this during a news conference last week in which he said the Iraqis are addressing it. "The problem is, on one part, undermanning, and the second part is the leave policy of the Iraqi armed forces that puts about a quarter of the unit on leave at any one time," Casey said. "We've recognized this. The Minister of Defense has put in place several months ago a policy that will increase the manning in Iraqi units to 110 percent, so when they take the people off for leave, there's still a credible enough force to put in the field." Rumsfeld would not say how big of an increase has been proposed. He also did not say whether Casey and the Iraqi government have proposed the same size increase. He said the final decision would be announced in Baghdad. Asked whether the increase would mean that U.S. forces would have to stay in Iraq longer to train the extra forces, Rumsfeld said he doubted it. Nor would it necessarily require a higher number of U.S. trainers, he said. The Pentagon said that there are now 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, up from 147,000 last week.

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