The commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad says he needs about 3,000 Iraqi forces to help stabilize the capital, which has recently experienced a dramatic surge in sectarian violence.
Major General James Thurman says operation "Together Forward," designed to clear out Iraqi insurgents and rebuild neglected neighborhoods in Baghdad, is going well.
But even with 15,000 U.S. troops in the capital, as well as about 9,000 Iraqi soldiers, he believes he needs more Iraqi forces to carry out the mission.
"What I have asked for is those additional Iraqi army units to come in to bolster security inside Baghdad city," he said. "What I still need in here, in terms of battalions from the Iraqi army, that I would like to see is approximately six battalions."
Major General Thurman says the Iraqi government is working hard to come to grips with the country's security needs.
"You gotta look at where the new government is at," he added. "You know, this government just got seated in May and June and started operating. It's now September, and, you know, we started with security forces, with nothing. And three years later, I think we have done a pretty good job here building the force that we have got. And, I know, throughout the [Iraqi] government - and the new minister of defense, I believe he is very much committed to what we need, and he is working very hard to meet those requirements."
The U.S.-led coalition began its operation to quell a spike in sectarian violence in Baghdad in June. Although many Iraqis, Shi'ites as well as Sunnis, have died since then, Major General Thurman says progress is being made in many areas. And he believes that the presence of more Iraqi troops in the city will be an important step in reducing sectarian violence.