WASHINGTON (American Forces Press Service, June 13, 2007) - Iraqi security units have developed to the point where they can assume a greater share of the security burden, the U.S. general in charge of training those forces until earlier this week said here yesterday.

Army Lt. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey turned over command of Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq to Army Lt. Gen. James Dubik on June 10 in Baghdad and testified before the House Armed Services Committee oversight subcommittee yesterday.

Lt. Gen. Dempsey gave an unvarnished assessment of the progress and roadblocks in training and equipping the Iraqi army, national police and local police.

"My overall assessment is that many units, especially the Iraqi army units, have become increasingly proficient and have demonstrated both their improved capability and resolve in battle," he said.

But both army and police units continue to be hampered by a lack of depth, he said. "They have a lack of tactical staying power of sufficient capability to surge forces locally," Lt. Gen. Dempsey told the representatives.

And all security organizations suffer from shortages of leaders from the tactical to the national level, he said.

As conditions in the country change, goals are readjusted and the security situation requires more Soldiers and police. For example, the command reached its goal for "trained and equipped" Soldiers in December 2006, only to have the goal upped by 45,000. Since then, the goal has risen another 20,000.

Lt. Gen. Dempsey's command generates units and individual replacements, develops institutional processes -- logistics, financial, manpower, fuel -- necessary to support fielded forces and professionalizing Iraqi forces and leaders.

Changes in the Iraqi government also are being felt through the ranks of the military and police, Lt. Gen. Dempsey said. Through 2005, the United States paid for all Iraqi security forces, he said. In 2006, the Iraqi government assumed responsibility for all life support for Iraqi forces. "We learned the importance of developing both the tactical and the institutional sectors of the forces simultaneously," he said.

The central government pays all Iraqi Soldiers and police, the general said. The government also is paying for subsistence and barracks.

"The ministries of Defense and Interior are functioning institutions who feel themselves responsible for the security of the nation and for their security forces," Lt. Gen. Dempsey said. "Challenges remain, but we should not underestimate the importance of having a coherent, accountable and responsible Iraqi chain of command from individual Soldier and policeman to the ministers of defense and interior."

More work needs to be done, especially at the ministries. He said Iraqi business practices "are horribly inefficient and ineffective," and there are few skilled civil servants. Still, there is progress. This year, the government of Iraq will spend more on its security forces than the United States government. Next year, the Iraqis will outspend the U.S. by a 2-to-1 margin, he said.

"If the government feels itself accountable to the Soldier and understands its responsibility to provide him resources, then the Soldier, in turn is going to feel his loyalty to the central government. We consider this an important measure of progress," Lt. Gen. Dempsey said.

The general said the challenge for 2008 is to find an adequate number of leaders to lead the security forces.

"We've been growing young second lieutenants through the military academies for three years," he said. "But it's very difficult to grow majors, lieutenant colonels and brigadier generals. It simply can't be done overnight."

Lt. Gen. Dempsey said the Iraqi people and their leaders are working in an incredibly challenging and dangerous environment. "The people of Iraq have demonstrated resolve and resiliency in withstanding the assaults of extremists and seem to be committed to make a better life for themselves, their families and their nation," he said. "The leaders and the people of Iraq have not given up on themselves. We should not give up on them."

Lt. Gen. Dempsey's next assignment is as deputy commander of U.S. Central Command.