BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) — Iraqi security forces will not be
ready to protect the country against insurgents by the June 30
handover of power, the top U.S. administrator said yesterday
— an assessment aimed at defending the continued heavy
presence of U.S. troops here even after an Iraqi government takes

The unusually blunt comments from L. Paul Bremer came amid a
weekend of new fighting that pushed the death toll for U.S. troops
in April to 99, already the record for a single month in Iraq.

Coalition officials have been acknowledging for months that
Iraqi police, security and military forces won’t be able to
fight insurgents alone, and that the transfer of security duties
from U.S. forces to Iraqis will be slower than originally

But Bremer said the fighting across the country this month
exposed the depth of the problems inside the security forces.

“Events of the past two weeks show that Iraq still faces
security threats and needs outside help to deal with them. Early
this month, the foes of democracy overran Iraqi police stations and
seized public buildings in several parts of the country,” he
said. “Iraqi forces were unable to stop them.”

“It is clear that Iraqi forces will not be able, on their
own, to deal with these threats by June 30 when an Iraqi government
assumes sovereignty,” Bremer said in a statement issued by
the U.S. coalition.

With U.S.-led forces fighting on two fronts and insurgent
violence flaring elsewhere, April’s U.S. combat death toll is
nearing that of the entire Iraq invasion period.

From March 30, when U.S. troops entered Iraq, to May 1, when
President Bush declared major combat over, 115 U.S. servicemembers
were killed. And until now, the single-month record for U.S. troops
killed was 82, in November.

Violence on Saturday killed six Marines and five soldiers,
bringing the toll in the first 17 days of April to at least 99. In
fighting over the weekend, at least 40 Iraqis were killed, bringing
the Iraqi total in April to more than 1,050.

Iraq’s defense minister — Ali Allawi, a Shiite
Muslim — appointed by U.S. officials two weeks ago, announced
his two top generals, a Sunni and a Kurd, establishing
representatives of the country’s three main communities in
the senior defense positions.

The army’s top general will be Gen. Babakir Zebari, who
commanded Kurdish militiamen in the north for decades and fought
alongside coalition troops during last year’s invasion. The
chief of staff will be Amer al-Hashimi, a Sunni and former general
in the Iraqi infantry until he retired in 1997.

U.S. officials have been rebuilding the military from scratch,
arranging the training of recruits and naming Allawi as its
civilian head.

But the recent violence has shown the weaknesses and conflicted
feelings of the armed forces.

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