Iraq to command own forces by spring: US general
Iraq's government will have command of its own armed forces by the middle of next year, a US general has said, revealing details of a deal between the US president
and the Iraqi prime minister
US military spokesman Major General William Caldwell
said Tuesday Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and President George W. Bush
had agreed on an "accelerated timetable" for Iraq to take charge of its own security.
The announcement came on the eve of a much-anticipated report from a panel of US experts which is expected to recommend that US forces in Iraq do exactly that, in order to disengage American troops from Iraq's bloody conflict.
"We would expect to see the entire country having reached Iraqi provincial control by the fall of next year," Caldwell told reporters in Baghdad.
"We should see the complete transfer of command and control
of all Iraqi army divisions by late spring early summer," he added.
"This is all part of the accelerated timetable that was discussed by the prime minister
and the president of the United States when they were in Jordan," referring to a meeting in Amman
"I think what you'll find from here is that 2007 is going to be the year of transition. We are going to transition security responsibility to the government of Iraq and their security forces," he said.
Currently only two of Iraq's 18 provinces are under direct Iraqi security control and only two of the country's 10 army divisions answer directly to Maliki rather than to US General George Casey's headquarters.
Caldwell said, however, that increasing numbers of America's 150,000-strong force would be assigned to "transition teams" directly inside Iraqi units to speed their training and coordinate operations with US support units.
These moves are among ideas expected to be recommended by former US secretary of state James Baker's Iraq Study Group on Wednesday, but Caldwell said the revised plan had come from the military itself.
"What's happening back in Washington... we'll take whatever guidance we're given but we're already refining and making adjustments here based on General Casey's guidance," he said. "The mission of our forces here is to set the conditions to allow the Iraqi security forces to be successful in providing security for Iraq so that Iraqis can determine the future of Iraq," he added.