Iraq Official Casts Doubt On Transfer Plan

A suspected terrorist is detained by Iraqi Army soldiers as U.S. soldiers search his home in Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, July 20, 2007. U. S. and Iraqi troops continue their push into the eastern part of the city.
AP Photo
Iraq's national security adviser expressed doubt Friday that Iraqi forces will be able to assume security control of the whole country by the end of the year, a goal of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government.

In April, al-Maliki said Iraqi soldiers and police would take over security responsibility from U.S. and other international forces in all 18 provinces by the end of 2007, allowing the American-led coalition to shift into a support role and possibly begin sending troops home.

"We had hopes and intentions to take over security in all provinces and command of all army divisions before the end of the year," national security adviser Mouwaffak al-Rubaie told The Associated Press. "But there are difficulties and challenges that appeared along the way, in arming, equipping, recruiting and training our armed forces."

Al-Rubaie would not give a new deadline.

"I think it is very difficult to predict a certain time," he said. "This depends on the speed of training and equipping. This depends on the level of threat whether regional or local. But we are not talking about weeks, or not even months. More than months."

U.S. military officials have been signaling for weeks that improvements in Iraqi security forces had not lived up to expectations — especially in the national police, which is widely believed to be infiltrated by Shiite militiamen.

There is intense focus on the next Iraq progress report due in September when the Bush administration had hoped to show that the troop surge was a success, reports CBS News White House correspondent Bill Plante. But there now appears to be no way to meet those expectations that soon.

On Friday, Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, who commands U.S. troops south of Baghdad, said it would take until the summer of 2008 to consolidate recent gains in his area, which controls land routes into the capital from the east and south.

Last week, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, said the number of combat-ready Iraqi battalions able to fight independently has dropped from 10 to six in recent months despite an increase in U.S. training efforts.

In other developments:

  • A Marine convicted of kidnapping and conspiring to murder an Iraqi civilian who was killed by troops looking for an insurgent will not serve a prison term, a military jury decided Friday. Cpl. Trent Thomas was sentenced to a bad-conduct discharge and a reduction in rank to private, which carries lower pay. He could have received life in prison for his role in the April 2006 killing of the retired Iraqi policeman in the village of Hamdania.
  • President Bush, ratcheting up a fight with Congress over Iraq, accused Democrats on Friday of conducting a political debate on the war while delaying action on money to upgrade equipment and give troops a pay raise.
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      Scott Conroy is a National Political Reporter for RealClearPolitics and a contributor for CBS News.