Iraqi army unable to fight insurgents, says Pentagon

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The Independent US

The newly declassified report is considered to be the most precise assessment of the ability of Iraqi forces and may provide important clues to the future policy of the Bush administration. The President and his senior officials have repeatedly said US forces will remain in Iraq until local forces are shown to be capable of leading such operations themselves.

The report says only half of the Iraqi police units and two-thirds of army battalions were "partially capable" of assisting the 138,000 US troops with the counter-insurgency operations.

Amid daily reports of suicide attacks and roadside bombs - yesterday at least 15 people were reported to have been killed in incidents across the country _ insurgents have also been stepping up their targeting of foreign diplomats. Yesterday two Algerian diplomats and their driver were dragged from their car by gunmen in Baghdad in the latest abductions, which were apparently aimed at scaring off Muslim governments.

Gunmen in two cars stopped the car carrying the charge d'affaires, Ali Belaroussi, and another diplomat near the al-Sa'a restaurant in the Mansour district, home to many embassies.

Two weeks ago, gunmen ambushed three other senior diplomats from Muslim countries in Baghdad. Insurgents claimed to have killed one of them, the Egyptian ambassador, this month, Bahrain's envoy was slightly wounded and Pakistan's ambassador escaped injury.

Sunni Arabs are continuing a boycott of the committee drafting Iraq's new constitution. Kamal Hamdoun, one of the 12 remaining Sunnis appointed to the constitutional commission last month, said they would continue the boycott pending an international investigation into the murders of two colleagues.