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January 18, 2008
Iraqi Forces Could Control Entire Country by End of the year
The Number 2 general on the ground in Iraq has said that he believes it is very possible that all 18 provinces will be in the hands of Iraqi security forces by the end of the year:
Iraq's army and police could be ready to take over security in all 18 provinces by the end of this year as the U.S. military moves toward a less prominent role in the country, U.S. officials said on Thursday. Currently, Iraqi forces are in control of 9 provinces with an expected takeover of Anbar province in March.
"We look at it every month. We make recommendations. I think that if we continue along the path we're on now, we'll be able to do that by the end of 2008," Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, the No. 2 commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, said when asked when Iraqi forces could take the lead in all provinces.
He said that a joint operation under way led by Iraqi troops and supported by U.S. troops against al Qaeda militants in the northern city of Mosul was a model for the future. "That's how I see our role frankly in the future here," he told Pentagon reporters via videolink from Baghdad.
Defense Secretary Gates believes that our drawdown of forces is also on track with around 20,000 scheduled for rotation back home sometime during the summer and a similar number exiting Iraq by the end of the year.
This is a far cry from a couple of years ago where the Pentagon expressed very little confidence in the abilities of the Security forces of Iraq. And while questions still remain about the loyalty and training of the police, those issues are being addressed by the Iraqi government.
Of course, the more Iraq slides into the background, the less of a campaign issue it will be. Who that might help is open to question but the general feeling is that as Iraq fades, other issues more conducive to the Democrats like the economy and heatlh insuranace come to the fore.