British official predicts Iraqi forces able to take control of country this year

October 22nd, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: British official predicts Iraqi forces able to take control of country this year

Media: The Associated Press
Byline: n/a
Date: 21 October 2006

LONDON_Iraqi police and military forces should be ready to take over control
of the country from U.S.-led forces within a year, a British government
minister said Saturday.

Another governing-party lawmaker, however, warned that it was unlikely Iraq
could remain a single country once U.S. and British troops left.

Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells said "the Iraqi army is coming along
very well."

"I would have thought that certainly in a year or so there will be
adequately trained Iraqi soldiers and security forces _ police men and women
and so on _ in order to do the job," Howells told British Broadcasting Corp.

"I would be very surprised if there was not that kind of capacity taking on
a lot of the work done by the coalition forces."

However, Howells warned that "it's going to take a lot of blood yet" before
Iraq becomes a stable democracy.

British officials have spoken in recent months of cutting troop levels in
Iraq from the current 7,000 to between 3,000 and 4,000 by mid-2007, but no
firm date for withdrawal has been set.

Prime Minister Tony Blair has been under growing pressure to set a timetable
for a pullout. Last week the country's top soldier, Gen. Richard Dannatt,
called for British troops to be withdrawn "sometime soon" and said their
presence was provoking rather than preventing violence.

Blair said this week that it would be a "gross dereliction of our duty" to
withdraw before Iraqi forces were able to take responsibility for security

Labour Party lawmaker Doug Henderson, a former defense minister, said in
comments reported Saturday that Iraq would probably break into at least
three countries _ Sunni, Shia and Kurdish _ once allied troops have

"I doubt if Iraq can be retained as one nation in the future," Henderson
told GMTV television in an interview to be broadcast Sunday. "I hope it can
be, but I think it's very unlikely that that will be the case."

Extracts from the interview were released late Saturday by the broadcaster.

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