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Rumsfeld Downplays Iraqi Force Concerns

1 October 2005 -- U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has downplayed concerns about the capacity of Iraqi forces to operate without U.S. help.

The top U.S. military official in Iraq yesterday reported a decline -- from three to one -- in the number of that battalions that can go into combat with insurgents without the help of the U.S. military. But Rumsfeld today said the overall capabilities of Iraqis was improving.

"What's important is that every day the number of Iraqi Security Forces are getting bigger and they're getting better and they're getting more experienced. At one point the U.S. was doing about 80 percent of their patrols and the activity and the Iraqi Security Forces about 20 [percent]. And today it's probably roughly reversed," Rumsfeld said.

Rumsfeld said there are 194,000 U.S.-trained Iraqi Army troops and police.

Top military officials told U.S. legislators yesterday that progress in training Iraqi troops still remains too mixed to allow setting a timetable for beginning to withdraw U.S. forces from the country.

Copyright (c) 2005. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org

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