Iraqi forces should be able to control the country's internal security within two years, but will still need foreign help to patrol its borders, the Iraqi national security adviser said Tuesday.
In an interview with Dow Jones Newswires and Associated Press Television News in Tokyo, Mowaffak Al Rubaie said Iraqi forces were moving on the path of being able to secure the country, despite a recent surge in violence.
"I believe in 18 months or a maximum two years, Iraq security forces will be able and will be competent to control the security situation inside Iraq," he said.
"Now, defending the borders from threats coming from neighbors, or coming from outside, is a different matter," Al Rubaie added.
Al Rubaie met earlier on Tuesday with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso, and was to later meet with defense chief Fukushiro Nukaga. Al Rubaie is in Tokyo to discuss security in Iraq and the future of Iraq-Japan relations.
Despite his stated faith in Iraqi security forces, Al Rubaie backed away from speculating on a timeline for the withdrawal of US-led coalition forces, saying the recent increase in sectarian death squad violence had affected earlier estimates of a coalition drawdown.
"I don't think it is wise to put a timeline for a total withdrawal of the foreign troops from Iraq," he said. "I think this will play into the hands of the terrorists and the insurgents."
An upsurge in violence linked to the Sunni insurgency and the Shiite-Sunni sectarian conflict killed about 3,500 people in July, the highest monthly death toll since the US led invasion in March 2003.
Some fear Iraq is on the road to civil war, but Al Rubaie denied that, saying that violent attacks have been declining in recent weeks after peaking last month. He said the al-Qaida terrorist network's forces in Iraq had been "severely wounded."
"We're on the right track for being self-reliant and self-sufficient," he said.
More than 2,600 members of the US military have also died in Iraq since the invasion. President George W. Bush on Monday acknowledged that the Iraq war is "straining the psyche of our country," but warned that leaving now would be a disaster.
Al Rubaie acknowledged that he was concerned by the number of educated and talented Iraqis fleeing the violence.
"The intellectual capital of this country is going down by the week or by the month, and this is worrying," he said, adding that the government needed to quell the violence and boost incentives to lure talented Iraqis back to the country.
(Chinadaily.com via agencies August 23, 2006)