The U.S. Department of Defense has expressed satisfaction with Iraqi troops' performance in ongoing military campaigns throughout the country. Iraqi military capability will factor heavily into the U.S. military's decisions about its own troop levels in Iraq. VOA's Suzanne Presto reports from the northern city of Irbil.
Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has routinely praised the performance of Iraqi troops in ongoing military operations, particularly in Baghdad's Sadr City and the northern city of Mosul.
But he is not the only one to express satisfaction with the troops' performance.
U.S. Department of Defense Spokesman Geoff Morrell told reporters at the Pentagon that senior military and civilian officials believe the Iraqi troops have achieved some degree of success in their three ongoing operations. "They have demonstrated over the past several weeks that they are far more capable than a lot of people gave them credit for, haven't they?," he said.
Morrell says the Iraqi military's strides may have surprised many after an Iraqi campaign launched in Basra in late March was initially characterized by troop desertion and heavy resistance from Shi'ite militants. Since then, Morrell says, troops have taken control of most of, if not all, of that southern city.
Iraqi troops are currently engaged in major military operations in two other areas - Mosul and Sadr City.
Morrell says the campaign in Mosul, which began in earnest on May 10, has been going well so far. That sentiment has been echoed by Iraqis living in Mosul and local leaders who are supporting the military's campaign to rid the city of al-Qaida in Iraq militants.
And Morrell says the early stages of the operation in eastern Baghdad's Sadr City have been successful thus far. The situation is far calmer than it was when fighting flared there in late March, but Morrell cautions that difficult work lies ahead.
"That one is going to be a tough one. Sadr City has been a rat's nest full of terrorists and special group operators who are supplied, trained, funded by the Iranians and by the Revolutionary Guard there, and this is going to be a difficult one," he said.
Pentagon spokesman Morrell says Iraq's military has been presenting itself well - not just in troop performance on the battlefield, but in the military's ability to supply and support the troops during these three simultaneous operations.
"This is proving to be an increasingly professional military. It is not going to happen overnight. It has not happened overnight. This may not be the turning point, but this is clearly another step in the right direction by the Iraqi security forces," he said.
U.S. officials have repeatedly emphasized that the number of U.S. troops in Iraq is tied to the situation on the ground and the Iraqi forces' ability to provide security in the nation.