Internet Anthropologist Think Tank: President: Iraqi forces to take over by year's end

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    Saturday, August 25, 2007

    President: Iraqi forces to take over by year's end

    BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- President Jalal Talabani said Wednesday he foresees Iraqi forces taking over security in all 18 provinces by the end of the year.

    Wednesday, August 2, 2006; Posted: 4:12 p.m. EDT (20:12 GMT)

    Talabani, who was speaking at a news conference, said the transition will be gradual and multinational forces will be playing a supportive role to the Iraqi troops.

    "The role of the multinational forces is a role to help the Iraqi armed forces, and, God willing, the Iraqi armed forces will at the end of the year take over all of the security in all the Iraqi provinces, little by little, gradually, and, God willing, we will be in a position to do that," he said.

    Also, he said, "We have optimism that we will eliminate terrorism."

    The remarks come during a volatile period in Baghdad and across the country, where Sunni-Shiite sectarian violence has raged for many months and attacks continue unabated, despite a big security crackdown in the capital.

    Two bombs exploded in a Baghdad soccer stadium Wednesday, killing 12 people and wounding 14, police in the Iraqi capital said. (Full story)

    Elsewhere, two U.S. troops died in Iraq's Anbar province and five people were also killed in a bombing in Baghdad and a shooting in Diyala province.

    On Tuesday, several dozen people were killed in attacks. (Full story)

    Talabani's pronouncement on a security transition is seen as optimistic. The U.S. military is largely in control of the country's security, and the British and Polish militaries each head a division.

    Those multi-national forces have had their hands full for years, facing obstacles from the Iraqi insurgency and sectarian hostilities in their efforts to establish security in the country.

    U.S. officials indicated that the sooner such a transition could take place, the better. But no one could say it would occur quickly.

    Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters Wednesday that while he didn't see the context of the remarks or the translation of it, "obviously, the hope of the Iraqis, the hopes of the Americans, the hopes of the troops is that the Iraqis will continue to take over responsibility for the security of their country and that over time we'll be able to draw down our forces as conditions permit."

    A senior Bush administration official told CNN the focus should be on what Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, not Talabani, says.

    The official wouldn't call Talabani's comment premature but said any formal announcement on the matter would come from al-Maliki, in consultation with the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. George Casey.

    In his address last week before a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress, al-Maliki didn't provide a time frame for a security leadership transition.

    "The completion of Iraq's forces form the necessary basis for the withdrawal of multinational forces. But it's only then, only when Iraq's forces are fully capable, will the job of the multinational forces be complete," he said.

    "Our Iraqi forces have accomplished much and have gained a great deal of field experience to eventually enable them to triumph over the terrorists and to take over the security portfolio and extend peace through the country."

    Lt. Col. Michael J. Negard, a public affairs officer from the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq, reacted to the remarks, saying "we are confident we can accomplish our task of training and equipping Iraqi security forces by the end of the year."

    However, he said, "any handover of security must come after" any given unit "is fully trained and equipped."

    A senior coalition official said that by September, five of the Iraq's 10 army divisions will be take control from coalition forces in different regions across the country. He didn't specify the regions.

    Sir Jock Stirrup, chief of Britain's defense staff, told BBC radio on Wednesday that British forces were likely to hand over control of the southern port of Basra early next year, The Associated Press reported.

    "We are now on a good path to hand over provincial control of Basra some time in the first part of next year," Stirrup said.

    "But these are difficult issues we are grappling with and I can't forecast what will happen over the next several months. This is a dynamic situation and we have to be able to react to any changes that occur. At the moment, we are making good progress."

    According to data from the Brookings Institution's Iraq Index, there were 269,600 Iraqi security forces -- 154,500 police and 115,100 army -- as of the end of July.

    Of Iraq's provinces, only Muthanna province is under Iraqi security forces' control. Iraq forces, however, do control districts here and there throughout the country.

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