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UPDATE: A week after Fox News Pentagon correspondent Bret Baier falsely claimed that a report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction found that "more than 250,000" Iraqi troops "are leading operations" in Iraq, Adm. Edmund P. Giambastiani Jr., the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated at a May 9 press briefing: "Seventy-five Iraqi security force battalions lead in operations, with coalition forces in support." The White House has said that battalions are "typically comprised of between 350 to 800 Iraqi forces," meaning that, according to Giambastiani's statement, between 26,250 and 60,000 Iraqi troops are now "leading operations" -- far fewer than the "more than 250,000" Baier had previously reported. Following that press briefing, also on May 9, Baier noted that U.S. commanders "say 75 Iraqi battalions are now in the lead." But Baier issued no correction and made no attempt to explain, or even note, the discrepancy between his new figure and the one he had given the previous week.
From the May 9 edition of Special Report with Brit Hume:
BAIER: As of today, commanders say 75 Iraqi battalions are now in the lead fighting the insurgency, and nearly a third of them are operating independently of U.S. troops.
Fox's Baier falsely claimed report found 250,000 Iraqi troops "leading operations"
On the May 1 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, Pentagon correspondent Bret Baier falsely claimed that a new report by Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), found that the "more than 250,000" Iraqi troops "are leading operations" in Iraq. In fact, the SIGIR report did not address the number of Iraqi troops that are "leading operations." A Pentagon report, however, suggests that the number is far lower than Baier claimed.
As Baier noted, the "April 30, 2006, Quarterly and Semiannual Report to Congress" from SIGIR stated: "Approximately 250,500 Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior forces have been trained and equipped for counter-insurgency and police operations." This figure includes 115,700 Iraqi military personnel and 134,800 police and other Interior Ministry forces. The SIGIR report did not indicate the status or readiness of any of these forces.
The SIGIR report did state that "[i]n March 2006, soldiers from the 6th and 9th Iraqi Army Divisions, with support from coalition forces, led Operation Glory Light, one of the largest operations of the last six months." The report added, however, that "[s]ecurity conditions have delayed the transfer of security responsibilities to Iraqi forces."
The most recent version of the Pentagon's Iraq report, "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq" -- published in February -- suggests that far fewer Iraqi troops are "leading operations" than Baier claimed. At the time, the Pentagon estimated that there were 227,300 "trained and equipped" Iraqi troops, 106,900 of whom served in the Iraqi military. According to the Pentagon report, 61 Iraqi military units were "in the lead" or "fully independent." The White House has said that units are "typically comprised of between 350 to 800 Iraqi forces," meaning that at the time of the report, between 21,350 and 48,800 Iraqi military troops were designated by the Pentagon as "in the lead." (On February 24, Pentagon officials acknowledged that the number of Iraqi army units capable of operating independently had fallen to zero.)
According to the February Pentagon report, Iraq also had 120,400 Interior Ministry forces, mostly police and highway patrol. The report measured the readiness levels of only the ministry's 28 National Police and Emergency Response units. The report did not assess the readiness of the Iraqi Police Service and highway patrol, which comprise the bulk of the ministry's forces. According to the report, 10 of the National Police and Emergency Response units, or between 3,500 and 8,000 troops, were "in the lead" or "fully independent."
From the May 1 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:
BAIER: Inspector General Stuart Bowen painted the report very differently.
BOWEN: The reconstruction program, though punctuated with deficiencies and occasional shortfalls, nevertheless in this report particularly conveys a picture of overall progress.
BAIER: The biggest success story, according to the report, is that more than 250,000 Iraqis are now trained and equipped as soldiers or police and are leading operations.