Video: Iraq security forces to increase

updated 10/31/2006 7:50:05 PM ET 2006-11-01T00:50:05

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Tuesday endorsed a proposal to spend at least $1 billion to expand the size and accelerate the training and equipping of Iraqi security forces .

“I’m very comfortable with the increases they’ve proposed and the accelerations in achievement of some of their targets,” Rumsfeld told reporters at the Pentagon, noting that the Iraqi government and Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, both recommended expanding Iraqi forces.

“Now it’s simply a matter of our pressing forward and getting our portion of the funding from the Congress and working to see that it’s executed,” Rumsfeld said. He did not say how much extra U.S. money would be required.

So far, the U.S. government has spent roughly $10 billion on developing the Iraqi security forces, according to the latest report released by the Pentagon special inspector general who audits U.S. work in Iraq. One official described the proposed extra money as more than $1 billion, but would not offer specifics.

Rumsfeld "approved going forward" with the proposal, which is intended to be part of an add-on to the 2007 budget, according to Eric Ruff, the Pentagon press secretary. It will next be submitted to the White House and other government agencies for their review, Ruff said.

The defense secretary's move comes at a time when the Bush administration has been pressing Iraqi officials to agree to benchmarks with which progress in the war-torn country can be measured. The effort has produced strains with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has resisted being portrayed as beholden to Washington.

Cost, personnel numbers not revealed
Rumsfeld did not cite a dollar figure or reveal how many extra Iraqi forces would be developed, beyond the 325,000 target that U.S. officials say they expect to reach before year's end.

Two defense officials said Tuesday that the expected increase was far fewer than 100,000, and one official suggested it might be about 30,000. Those officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

CBS News reported on Monday that Casey had recommended expanding the Iraqi security forces by as much as 100,000.

Rumsfeld said the final decision about expanding the Iraqi security forces would be announced in Baghdad.

Asked whether such an increase would mean that U.S. troops would have to stay in Iraq longer to train the extra forces, Rumsfeld said he doubted it. Nor would it necessarily require a higher number of U.S. trainers, he said.

U.S. government approval is required for any plan to expand the size of the Iraqi forces because it could not be accomplished without additional U.S. funds and the provision of U.S. trainers and U.S.-acquired equipment.

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