Saturday, July 02, 2005

Bush's speech: fact vs. spin

In his speech, Bush told the nation that ''today Iraq has more than 160,000 security forces trained and equipped for a variety of missions."

But here's what Biden says General David Petraeus, the man in charge of training Iraqi forces, told him about the 107 Iraqi army battalions: ''He said three -- T-H-R-E-E -- are fully trained and capable of executing missions on their own without American help. You are talking 500 to 800 troops in each of the units. So if you add it all up, at most they have 2,400" troops ready to function independently.

Although Bush downplayed the problems with Iraq's fledgling forces, saying ''some are capable of taking on the terrorists and insurgents by themselves" and that ''a large number can plan and execute antiterrorist operations with coalition support," as Biden points out, it's the ability of those soldiers to operate independently that matters, because only then can US troops leave.

Further, the Delaware Democrat said that the United States and Iraq haven't taken France, Egypt, and Jordan up on their offers to train police or military officers -- offers Biden has heard in person from French President Jacques Chirac and Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak. A high administration official confided to him that objections from the Department of Defense have kept that from happening, Biden says.

From his own conversations with NATO officials, Biden says NATO could be persuaded to send 3,000 to 5,000 troops to help secure Iraq's porous borders. But the administration has not pushed for that, he says.

On Tuesday, Bush said that 40 countries and three international organizations have pledged $34 billion to help Iraq's reconstruction. Actually, says Biden, $21 billion of that is from US taxpayers. Only $13 billion comes from other countries or agencies -- and of that, only about $3 billion has been delivered. What's more, he says, of the $18.4 billion Congress appropriated in the fall of 2003 in additional reconstruction dollars, only $6 billion has actually been spent.



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