Iraqis need another year to control Iraq: US General says

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Washington, Oct 3 (UNI) The American commander in Iraq Lt Gen Raymond T Odierno has said Iraqi security forces would need another to be capable of providing security to the country.

''It is going to take more time to make the Iraqi security forces self-reliant, and some challenges remain'', The New York Times reported him as saying here yesterday.

Lt Gen Raymond T Odierno who is the incharge of day-to-day combat operations in Iraq, said the increase in American troops in recent months had shown good results leading to'extreme pressure' on foriegn troops operating in Iraq.

He said Iraqi forces still are incapable of providing their own logistics and lacked qualified commanders, adding that 'there is still some sectarianism' in the Iraqi military's ranks, although he expressed confidence that the government in Baghdad was working to crush disloyalty.

The main task before American forces was to move to 'tactical overwatch,' in which security operations would be given to Iraqis with Americans able to respond and assist 'in a very short period of time.' But that, he said, would take about an year to achieve.

The five additional combat brigades sent to Iraq this year by President Bush would be withdrawn by next year, reducing the number back to 15, but many Democrats and Republicans have called for the Iraqis to take over the security mission from American troops sooner.

Referring to Al Qaeda, Lt Gen said, ''Their ability to conduct operations has been significantly reduced. I think they're under very significant pressure.'' The flow of weapons from Iran, including mortars and advanced roadside bombs, increased significantly in the beginning of this year. There has been a slight decrease over the past couple of months, but the level of assistance from Iran remains worrisomely high, he said.

As security conditions improve, the area of focus would be on how to improve municipal services to Iraqis nationwide, he added.


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