'Iraqi forces could take over few regions by '07'
Iraqi Army forces may be able to take over the more volatile regions of their country by the end of this year, as long as they have the equipment and logistical support they need, a top US military commander said on Monday.
Marine General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that by year's end the Iraqi army will have recruited all of the units it needs, and the US will have trained "a vast majority of their Army."
"Right now the Iraqis have (control) over half of Baghdad, and Baghdad is a pretty tough neighbourhood, so they're certainly capable, regardless of the area, of being in control," Pace said in an interview on a US military aircraft en route to Pakistan "It will be just a matter of time to see what makes sense."
Pace's comments expanded on assertions made late last week by Army Lt Gen Peter Chiarelli, the second-rankig US commander in Iraq, who said the goal is to have Iraqi security forces in control of 5 per cent of the country's territory by the end of the summer.
Asked if that territory included the Anbar region and the Sunni Triangle, where much of the recent sectarian violence has been centered, Pace said that is a possibility.
He said the traning of the Iraqi forces is going well, and "they will have sufficient numbers of troops to do that and then, like anything, for both coalition forces and Iraqi forces it will depend on how much of the anti-Iraqi activiy is going on in any particular area."
Pace's comments came as Iraqi and US forces continued a sweep in the desert northeast of Samarra, trying to locate weapon caches and flush out insurgents.