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Central Command Report, June 21: Iraq Operational Update

21 June 2005

Force levels depend on conditions, not timelines, General Vines says

No changes are expected in the number of U.S. military forces operating in Iraq for that country’s October referendum on a new constitution and its general elections in December, according to a senior military officer there.

At a June 21 Pentagon briefing, Army Lieutenant General John R. Vines, commander of Multinational Force-Iraq, said the current U.S. troop strength in the region is approximately 135,000 and that number won't change appreciably before the October referendum.

"Clearly, we know that insurgents will do everything they can to disrupt ratification of a constitution,” Vines said.  “To them, that's a terrifying event, that the government is established in Iraq."

But it is unlikely there will be any increase in force levels in support of the referendum as there was during the period around the January 30 general elections, the general added.

"Is it possible?  Yes, if we think the conditions have changed, but right now I don't foresee a spike to support that referendum," Vines said.

Troop levels, Vines said in a closed circuit televised news conference from Baghdad, will depend on conditions, not timelines.

"A huge shift that injects a lot of risk into the situation is probably not a wise course of action," he said.

A key factor in any changes in force levels is the number of insurgency attacks, which the general characterized as static at the moment.

"What we see in terms of numbers of attacks, what we see in numbers of [citizen] tips; what we see in the flow of foreign fighters, which is quite small, it is relatively static, it's not growing, not spreading," Vines said.  "And I make assessments based on military conditions."

As Iraqi security forces improve, he said, and the number of insurgent attacks remains the same or declines, then force levels can be changed.

"Iraqi security forces are operational throughout the country, and on the whole, they're doing quite well," Vines said.

The general contended that the ability of the Iraqi forces to conduct operations is not the significant concern.

"Development of government capacity is a concern, and it continues to develop.  But that will, I think, be critical to the success of the security line of operation here in Iraq," Vines said.

The general said coalition forces in Iraq are there to provide space and time for the new government and the constitutional process to work "without being murdered in its infancy by insurgents who don't want to see it succeed."

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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