Wednesday, February 15, 2006 - U.S. role in Iraq security shifting

BAGHDAD — The U.S. military says 40% of Iraq's combat battalions are effective enough to have taken the lead role in fighting the insurgency, a key measure for determining when U.S. forces can withdraw[snip]

Currently, 40 of Iraq's 102 battalions have taken over security in the areas where they operate, Col. James Greer, chief of staff for the U.S. military command responsible for training Iraqi troops, said in an interview.

The goal is to build 110 combat battalions. A typical Iraqi battalion, the army's basic fighting unit, has 700 to 800 soldiers.

"It's an essential part of the broader strategy," said Anthony Cordesman, an analyst at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

With American troops in more of a support role, they will be less visible and not as susceptible to attack, Cordesman said. "But you won't have a situation where Iraqi battalions come on line and U.S. troops leave the next week." - U.S. role in Iraq security shifting

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