By Jim Garamone
WASHINGTON, Oct. 11, 2006 – The coalition military leader in Iraq disagrees with critics who say Iraq is in a civil war. "I don't believe so, and the Iraqis I speak with don't believe so either," said Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commander of Multinational Force Iraq. Casey and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld spoke during a Pentagon news conference today. Casey said that most of the sectarian violence in the country occurs within a 30-mile radius of the center of Baghdad. Some violence leaks over to Diyala province and the rest is in Basra, he said.
"The idea that the country is aflame in sectarian violence is just not right," Casey said. "I do not subscribe to the civil war idea."
Casey said military leaders in Iraq constantly review their strategy and adapt it as needed. He used the decision of July 2006 as an example. "I was on a track to off-ramping a couple of brigades," he said. "But the situation on the ground didn't support that, and we kept the forces there. We constantly look at what we need, and I ask for what we need."
Casey said the broad strategy in Iraq - that coalition forces may draw down as Iraqi forces ramp up - is still valid. "We will continue to look tactically at what's happening on the ground, and my subordinate commanders will work to deal with that," he said.
Giving the Iraqi government time is still crucial to success. Casey said the new government - the first democratically elected government in the nation's history - is less than 150 days old. "This is the third government I've seen in power in Iraq, and as you can imagine, it takes a few months to get their legs under them," he said.
Casey said training the Iraqi army is going well with six divisions, 30 brigades and 90 battalions in the lead in military operations. Making the Iraqi army able to operate independently will be the push in 2007, he said.
The Iraqi police have a bad reputation, Casey noted, and he said most of it is undeserved. Police units participated in kidnappings and murders, he acknowledged, but he pointed out that the Iraqi interior minister relieved those units and arrested those involved in the atrocities.
In two provinces, Iraqi police forces maintain domestic order without any coalition support. "I would expect to get to a total of six or seven Iraqi provinces under provincial Iraqi control by the end of the year," Casey said.
Overall, the coalition has completed training about 90 percent of the police and border forces, and the general said he expects that to be finished by January.
Another initiative with the police forces is the National Police Reform Program. This takes an entire brigade off the line and moves it to a training base for three weeks of police training and loyalty training. "So we not only give them new skills, but a new ethos," the general said.