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Report: Iraqi Security Forces Still Lag

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LOLITA C. BALDOR | December 18, 2007 06:33 PM EST | AP


WASHINGTON — As violence continues to decline in much of Iraq, efforts to shift responsibility to the Iraqi security forces are still lagging, dogged by corruption, administrative shortfalls and sectarian divides, according to a Pentagon report.

The Defense Department's quarterly report on progress in Iraq said that while the size and capabilities of the Iraqi Army and police forces have grown, many are still dependent on the U.S. and coalition nations for logistics and training.

A key problem, it said, is the Iraqis' "inability to adequately forecast life-support requirements and to promptly take action when contracts are expiring." The report covers the three month period September through November.

In addition, the Iraqi Army is losing up to 17 percent of its troops a year because of higher casualty rates, which are two to three times that of coalition forces, as well as desertions.

As of November, 21,000 Iraqi soldiers had been dropped from the rolls this year after going AWOL, the report said.

Still, it noted that as of Nov. 15, 117 Army battalions were conducting operations, up from 105 in the September report. In addition, more Iraqi forces are able to take the lead in counterinsurgency operations. And 77 percent of the Army units are now able to plan, execute and sustain operations "with minimal or no assistance" from coalition forces.

The police, meanwhile, are still plagued with corruption and sectarian behavior. According to the report, several thousand personnel were fired due to criminal records, corruption or other problems, and nearly 200 police were fired for militia activity.

The report, released Tuesday, details many of the same improved security statistics that have been touted by military commanders and Pentagon leaders over the past month. The number of U.S. and coalition casualties, civilian deaths and weekly attacks all have dropped to levels not seen since early 2006.

It also echoes warnings that any effort to sustain the substantial security progress made since September will depend on the government's movement on political and economic reforms.

And it describes a government still falling far short in efforts to provide basic electricity and other services to the Iraqi people.

In Baghdad, residents averaged only 11.5 hours of power per day during the three-month span, increasing to 12.7 hours a day on average in November. In the country as a whole, the average was a bit more than 15 hours a day.

The report also noted that the Mosul Dam is continuing to erode and could lead to a "catastrophic failure" and significant flooding that could stretch from Mosul all the way to Baghdad, 200 miles downstream.

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On the Net:

Quarterly Report: http://www.defenselink.mil/pubs/pdfs/FINAL-SecDef%20Signed-20071214.pdf