- The American military has set a target of December for
handing over responsibility for security to Iraqi army and police units,
says a classified document being circulated among senior officers.
- It is the first time that a date has been put forward
for the phasing back of US involvement in controlling the insurgency that
has raged for more than two years.
- The proposal envisages that after the planned election
of a five-year parliament in December the American military would withdraw
from patrolling, starting a gradual pull-out from the country. America
and Britain have declined to detail an exit strategy in public for fear
of encouraging insurgents and being seen to cut and run.
- However, the deadline illustrates American confidence
that the development of Iraq's security forces is proceeding as planned.
- The police now number almost 87,000 officers and the
army has 72,500 troops. A further 19,000 men and women are being trained.
- An American officer confirmed that the withdrawal document
had been circulated. He emphasised that it was intended as "prudent
- "No one in the chain of command is pushing us to
complete our work faster or compromise our developed processes to meet
some arbitrary timeline," he said.
- Mowaffak Al-Rubaie, Iraq's chief security adviser, told
CNN's Late Edition yesterday that larger withdrawals would not take place
until the middle of next year.
- The challenge of meeting the timetable was reinforced
yesterday as rebels continued the wave of attacks that followed the announcement
last week of the composition of the new government after three months of
- Thirty men, believed to be from a Sunni militia, stormed
a checkpoint in the south of Baghdad, killing five policemen. An interior
ministry official said some of the victime could have been asleep.
- Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an al-Qa'eda associate, claimed
responsibility on the internet.
- A young girl died and 10 Iraqis were injured when a car
bomb exploded as an American convoy was attacked in south-east Baghdad.
There was no immediate word of US casualties but at least one Humvee was
- A suicide car bomb exploded at the funeral of a Kurdish
official in the northern city of Tal Afar, 90 miles from the Syrian border,
killing 20 Iraqis and wounding more than 30.
- The government confirmed the widely held belief that
the security situation had markedly worsened this month. Nearly 570 Iraqis
have been killed, a 48 per cent rise on March, and 668 wounded.
- Civilians made up the vast majority of the dead, with
98 policemen and 41 soldiers among those killed. The interior and defence
ministries put insurgent losses at 64.
- US military confidence in the security forces has grown
in recent months, with Iraqi army and police units conducting several independent
operations that resulted in the capture of large rebel cells and the discovery
of several significant weapons caches.
- Coalition troops formerly described their role as training
Iraqi units; the new message is that they "mentor" them. This
involves Iraqi forces conducting their own missions, often accompanied
by US and British advisers.
- Last month Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said he
expected British troops to start withdrawing from Iraq next year, a move
that would fit in with the proposed American timetable. But for that to
happen the rise in rebel activity would have to be halted and elections
in December conducted as planned.
- Another major problem is that as many as 50,000 of those
on the Iraqi security payroll may be "ghost soldiers" who collect
their pay cheques but do not turn up.
- * Credible reports of threats against the US are at their
lowest since the September 11 attacks as terrorists focus instead on Americans
in Iraq and Europe, Washington said.
- © Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2005.