Iraq Wants Quick Withdrawal of U.S. Troops
Iraq Wants Quick Withdrawal of U.S. Troops
By ROBERT BURNS, AP Military Writer 47 minutes ago
BAGHDAD, Iraq -
Iraq's transitional prime minister called Wednesday
for a speedy withdrawal of U.S. troops and the top
U.S. commander here said he believed a "fairly
substantial" pullout could begin next spring and
Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said at a joint news
conference with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld
that the time has arrived to plan a coordinated
transition from American to Iraqi military control
throughout the country.
Asked how soon a U.S. withdrawal should happen, he
said no exact timetable had been set. "But we confirm
and we desire speed in that regard," he said, speaking
through a translator. "And this fast pace has two
First, there must be a quickening of the pace of U.S.
training of Iraqi security forces, and second there
must be closely coordinated planning between the
U.S.-led military coalition and the emerging Iraq
government on a security transition, he said.
"We do not want to be surprised by a withdrawal that
is not in connection with our Iraqi timing,"' he said.
Speaking earlier with U.S. reporters traveling with
Rumsfeld, Gen. George Casey, the top American
commander in Iraq, said he believed a U.S. troop
withdrawal could begin by spring 2006 if progress
continues on the political front and if the insurgency
does not expand.
Rumsfeld was planning to get a firsthand look at the
training of Iraqi security forces by watching a
demonstration by a group of Iraqi special forces
soldiers using live ammunition at a training range run
by American troops.
U.S. officials describe a variety of security forces
being developed. Foremost is the Iraqi army, comprised
mainly of infantry battalions, although there also are
to be four tank battalions. The army now has about
77,000 soldiers, and it is scheduled to expand to
about 85,000 by December. It includes "intervention
forces," to lead the Iraqi effort against the
There are now about 94,000 police, most for standard
traffic and patrol work. That is to grow to about
145,000 by December, and it includes "special police"
commando battalions as well as a mechanized police
brigade that will be a paramilitary, counterinsurgency
unit intended to deploy to high-risk areas using light
armored personnel carriers.
The organization in charge of training and equipping
Iraqi security forces is the Multinational Security
Transition Command, headed by Lt. Gen. David Petraeus,
who last week was announced by the
Pentagon as the next commander of the Army's Combined
Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. He is to be
replaced in Iraq by Maj. Gen. Martin Dempsey, who
spent more than a year in Iraq as commander of the 1st
The effort to build a reliable Iraq security force has
been slowed by a number of problems. One that can be
traced to the earliest days of the U.S. military
occupation was the virtual disintegration of the Iraqi
army that existed when American troops invaded in
March 2003. Some say this was made worse by the
decision of L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. civilian
administrator of Iraq starting in May 2003, to
formally disband the Iraqi security forces.
Another problem has been infiltration of the security
forces by insurgents. In its report to Congress last
week, the Pentagon acknowledged that this remains a
problem and it still is unable to say just how much
infiltration there is, despite efforts to improve
vetting of recruits.
Rumsfeld said en route to Iraq on Wednesday that Iraqi
leaders must take a more aggressive stance against
what he called harmful interference from neighboring
Syria and Iran.
He said he would be pushing the Iraqis to provide more
people who can be trained by U.S. personnel to handle
the growing number of detainees in the country, now
estimated to number at least 15,000.
With a permanent Iraqi government scheduled to take
power in January, following adoption of a constitution
and an election in December, they need trained prison
guards "so that as soon as it is feasible we can
transfer responsibility for Iraqi prisoners to the
Iraqi government," he said.
Rumsfeld has often criticized Iran and Syria for
meddling in Iraq's affairs. In his remarks Wednesday,
he put the main onus on Iraqi leaders to do more to
fix the problem.
"They need to be aggressively communicating with their
neighbors to see that foreign terrorists stop coming
across those borders and that their neighbors do not
harbor insurgents and finance insurgents," he said in
an in-flight interview with reporters accompanying him