U.S. Official: Iraq Can Deal With Threats

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WASHINGTON, Aug. 16 (UPI) — Iraq has focused its national defense almost exclusively on addressing internal threats, a U.S. military official said.

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan in an interview with the Pentagon Channel said the Iraqi military has made impressive gains since it was dismantled during the 2003 invasion.

“The size has increased from zero to 650,000 now,” he said. “They are equipped with very modern equipment and they are training themselves.”

He added the number of attacks in the country was down overall and Iraqi security forces were in the lead in counterinsurgency operations.

“By necessity, they have been focused almost entirely on internal threats — fighting terrorism, fighting insurgents,” he said.

His comments come on the heels of one of the deadliest days in Iraq in months. A series of attacks and bombings Monday killed at least 89 people. Iraqi officials blamed national security forces in part for the attacks.

The attacks come as U.S. military forces start to look toward the Dec. 31 draw down date spelled out in a 2008 status of forces agreement. Iraqi officials expressed openness to considering some form of extension, though U.S. military officials said the recent attacks didn’t alter plans to draw down forces from their current strength of about 47,000 by the end of the year.

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