U.S. General Faces Challenge of Rebuilding Iraq's Army

ByABC News

MOSUL, Iraq, Jan. 22, 2005 — -- With the Iraqi elections just nine days away, Lt. Gen. Dave Petraeus, commander of the U.S. Multinational Security Transition Command, has one of the most important jobs in Iraq: training the Iraqi forces who will eventually take control from the Americans.

Petraeus has tried -- and sometimes failed -- over the past year to train and equip Iraq's military forces. He says he now has 128,000 readied troops. That number can be deceiving, however, since 55,000 of the "trained" forces are Iraqi police with only a few weeks of training.

Iraqi police were criticized after they abandoned their stations following an uprising by insurgents in Mosul last November. Petraeus says he has learned from the incident and is making changes accordingly.

"The key with the Iraqi police in particular is to make sure they never feel they are in an isolated place and no one is coming to the rescue," Petraeus said.

He says Iraqi police forces are now being given better communication equipment.

At a remote Iraqi army base in Mosul, officials boast that six battalions are now trained, but the battalions are actually half the size they should be.

There are, however, significant changes being made in training Iraqi forces. The most able Iraqi units are those that have U.S. special forces embedded with the troops. Under a new plan, American military advisers will now be placed with Iraqi units long after the Iraqis complete their training.

"The advisers can very much assist the Iraqi leadership," said Petraeus. "Provide some advice and provide a link to firepower."

Petraeus is optimistic the changes will make a difference. If they don't, the general knows that American forces will have to stay in Iraq even longer.

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

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