General: Iraqi troops will be ready to secure Baghdad during elections
ARLINGTON, Va. — Iraqi military and police forces will be ready to secure Baghdad during the October elections with “assistance” from U.S. troops, the commander of Task Force Baghdad said Friday.
“My intent with the [Iraqi] forces in Baghdad is to have them capable of planning security of the election process with our assistance, and conducting that security, hands-on, in the lead, by the October and December elections,” Army Maj. Gen. William G. Webster Jr., commander of the task force and Multinational Division Baghdad, told Pentagon reporters.
In a live transmission from Baghdad, Webster said that the Iraqi army in Baghdad will include a full division of 18,000 soldiers in six brigades when Iraqis go to the polls to vote on a new constitution in October and a permanent government in December.
In addition, Webster said, 11,000 Iraqis working for the police, “special police” and “Public Order brigades” that will assist with election security.
The 11,000 Iraqi police are in place today, he said.
But while the Iraqi army totals 15,000 in the Baghdad area, only “about 35 percent [are] currently operating,” Webster said.
Those 5,250 soldiers are split into two brigades, each of which “owns battle space” in Baghdad, Webster said.
Each Iraqi unit has 40 to 45 U.S. military personnel permanently attached as advisers, Webster said, “with another 100 available as immediate backup,” in the form of Quick Reaction Force (QRF) teams.
Approximately 9,750 Iraqi soldiers, meanwhile, are in various stages of training, Webster said.
By the elections, Webster said, the Iraqi division in Baghdad should have its full complement of 18,000 troops.
However, he said, “I think it’s going to be spring of ’06 or so before they’re able to support themselves logistically, long-term.”
“Right now, their difficulties are in supporting themselves in sustained operations,” Webster said of the Iraqi troops, calling Iraqi supply units and maintenance units “the long pole in the tent.”
Those capabilities “will take longer to grow” than combat skills, he said.
“Once they’ve got those, and their ministries are able to support them long-term, then they’ll be able to take control of fighting the counterinsurgency altogether,” Webster said.