As US troops draw down, Iraqi forces are taking the lead. Reviews so far are mixed.
Reports of the Iraqi Army's performance in the last month have ranged from proud to disastrous.
But with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki pursuing a fight with militias that has him squared off against the radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr – and with the drawdown of US troops continuing to pre-surge numbers this summer – Iraq's security forces may be facing their biggest test yet.
The Americans, who will fall back from more than 160,000 troops to about 140,000 by August, are asking the Iraqis to do more: lead more of the fighting, man more of the checkpoints, carry out more of the security missions on their own.
The question is, are they up to it? The answer will play a crucial role in the assessment the commander of US forces in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, will make at the end of summer to decide if the drawdown of troops should continue. More long term, it will help determine how fast the US can safely withdraw most combat troops from the country.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice seems to have no doubts about the answer. While in Baghdad recently to show support for Mr. Maliki's willingness to take on the militias she said that Iraqis "are, quite rightly, proud of their security forces and the way they've performed."
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