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US Proposing Increase in Target Number of Iraqi Security Forces

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says senior American generals in Iraq and the Iraqi government are proposing an increase in the target number for Iraqi security forces, but he would not say how much the increase will be until a final decision is made.

Secretary Rumsfeld says he has the recommendation on his desk and hoped to make a decision on whether to approve the plan sometime Tuesday. He said any announcement would come from the Iraqi government.

"I think it's correct to say that the Iraqi government and [the top U.S. commander in Iraq] General Casey have made their recommendations, and [the commander of the training effort, Lieutenant] General Dempsey, and that I'm very comfortable with the increases they've proposed and the accelerations in achievement of some of their targets that they've proposed," he said.

U.S. officials say Iraq now has nearly 310,000 security forces trained and equipped, including the army, the national and local police forces, and units to patrol the roads and borders. The current goal is to recruit and train 325,000. But as the effort neared its goal, Secretary Rumsfeld asked for a review of the plan to determine whether more forces might be needed.

Violence has escalated in Iraq in recent months, and the Iraqi security forces have received mixed reviews for their performance. One problem is absenteeism, which led the top U.S. general in Iraq to suggest that some units might need to be expanded so they can perform their missions even when many troops are not available.

Secretary Rumsfeld says the review and expected increase in the target figure are part of the effort to make Iraq self-sufficient.

"The goal is to have the Iraqis have a number of security forces that are sufficiently capable and equipped and trained and effective that they can provide for the security in that country and support the government," he added.

Secretary Rumsfeld says once the plan to increase the size of the Iraqi security forces is finalized, he will ask the U.S. Congress to provide funding to help pay for the increase.

The secretary says there is no plan to increase U.S. forces in Iraq, and that raising the number of Iraqi forces might not even require more U.S. trainers. But he noted that once U.S. combat forces begin to withdraw from Iraq, trainers and support units might have to stay longer to work with Iraq's combat troops and to help them develop the full range of supply and logistics capabilities they will need to sustain themselves.