Are Iraqi Troops Prepared to Secure Their Country?

ByABC News
November 15, 2005, 6:02 PM

BAGHDAD, Nov. 15, 2005 — -- The U.S. military said today that more than 112,000 Iraqi police and nearly 100,000 Iraqi troops have been trained and equipped so far. While the numbers seem impressive, the greater concern is whether those Iraqi forces are capable of effectively securing their country.

Today's report from the Pentagon says only one battalion -- about 700 Iraqi troops -- has reached level one, meaning the soldiers can operate independently.

The report also finds that approximately 27,000 others are capable of taking a lead role in combat, but only with strong support from U.S. forces.

As for the others, U.S. officials say there are a variety of problems -- from equipment shortages to lack of medics and logistic support.

On a recent trip to al Anbar province, an ABC News team saw firsthand some of the more basic problems. A team of approximately 60 Iraqi security personnel had joined 1,000 U.S. Marines, but they often failed to wake up when told and failed to follow orders. One senior Iraqi soldier passed out from the heat after only half a day of operations.

So how fast can these soldiers be trained to operate independently, and how many Iraqis need to be in the lead role before U.S. troops can substantially draw down? Those are questions that U.S. officials will not answer.

"There are plenty of intangibles that go into [it]," said Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey, who oversees the training of Iraqi forces. "There is not an arithmetic equation that will say, 'Every time I build 10 battalions, you can take one American battalion away.'"

But Dempsey does say the first six months of the new Iraqi government are key. He says if that goes smoothly, then the United States can likely start thinking about a drawdown.

ABC News' Martha Raddatz filed this report for "World News Tonight."