General says Iraqi forces still need U.S.

July 9, 2008 7:26:32 AM PDT
The Army three-star general who for a year led efforts to train Iraq's army and police units says progress is mixed and U.S. help is needed for the foreseeable future. Lt. Gen. James Dubik was expected to tell the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday that Iraq's security forces have grown by more than a quarter - from 444,000 to 566,000 - since he assumed command of the Multi-National Security Transition Command in June 2007. And, he says, the forces are improving their ability to execute operations on their own.

But the fast-growing force lacks experienced military leaders and the inability to train all of its new recruits, Dubik says.

"As I often said to my command in Baghdad, 'progress doesn't result in no problems, it results in new problems,"' he wrote in prepared testimony for the hearing.

Dubik's visit to Capitol Hill comes as the Iraq war remains a key issue in the upcoming presidential elections and the progress of Iraq's security forces is widely seen as necessary to help smooth a U.S. exit to the unpopular war, now in its sixth year.

Dubik didn't estimate how long U.S. assistance might be needed.

"Our assistance may change in organization and size over the coming months or years, but some form of partnership and assistance, consistent with strategic objectives, is still necessary," he wrote. "The Iraqis know this; we should remember it too."

The Iraqi military said Wednesday that the number of "terrorist attacks" in June declined 85 percent from the same period a year ago. Despite the security gains, frequent attacks continue throughout the country.

When Dubik testified before Congress in January, he said Iraq was on track to reach some 580,000 security force members by the end of the year but that the forces still were a long-way from becoming self-sufficient. Iraqi officials estimated to him that the country probably wouldn't be able to assume responsibility for internal security until sometime between 2009 and 2012 or defend its borders before 2018, he said.

In his testimony Wednesday, Dubik recommended streamlining complex laws and regulations that he said have delayed U.S. military equipment purchased by Iraq. Iraq has ordered $2.7 billion in equipment, but received just $1.4 billion, he wrote.

Army Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick assumed control of the U.S. training command last week. Dubik is retiring after 37 years of service.

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