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Panel Says Iraq More Than a Year Away From Handling Security

06 September 2007

An independent panel of experts says it will be 12 to 18 months before Iraqi forces are ready to take charge of the country's security.

The determination is part of a lengthy report that will be issued Thursday during testimony in the U.S. Senate by the panel's chairman, retired Marine General James Jones.

The report by military and security experts says Iraq's military has made substantial improvements, but is still about two years away from being able to provide logistical support for its ground forces.

The experts say Iraq's national police force is riddled with sectarianism and corruption, and should be disbanded.

The panel also says political reconciliation is the only way for Iraq to achieve long-term stability.

A spokesman for the U.S. military, Geoff Morrell, says the Pentagon has always recognized that establishing a credible security force in Iraq is "a long-term project."

He also says the military is opposed to disbanding the national police force.

The report is one of a handful mandated by Congress earlier this year to assess the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Earlier this week, the head of the independent U.S. Government Accountability Office told lawmakers that Iraq has failed to meet 11 of 18 benchmarks set by the U.S. to mark political, economic and military progress.

The office said that among other things, Iraq's government has failed to reduce the level of sectarian violence, enact an oil revenue sharing law, and disarm militias.

The administration will release its long-awaited report on progress in Iraq next week, along with assessments from U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and the top U.S. commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.

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