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Fort Lewis leader faces tough Iraq task

The commanding general of Fort Lewis will have one of the military's toughest and most critical jobs if he's confirmed as head of the command responsible for training Iraqi security forces.

The Department of Defense on Thursday announced the nomination of Lt. Gen. James Dubik to become commander of Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq. He awaits Senate confirmation.

President Bush called training Iraqi forces "the essential U.S. security mission in Iraq" in his address to the nation Jan. 10. Officials want Iraqis to take over security for their country before reducing the number of U.S. troops deployed there, although the president said the nation's commitment to Iraq isn't open-ended.

The leader of the command assists the Iraqi government in training and equipping Iraqi security forces, both military and police, and works to rebuild security bases and training academics.

There's a lot of work to be done.

By the end of 2006, the command under U.S. leadership was to have trained and equipped 326,000 Iraqi security personnel, according to the report by the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan commission that recommended a new U.S. military strategy in the Middle East.

The report noted that the Iraqi Army's performance has been uneven.

That's largely because of the sectarian loyalties of the forces. The report notes that some elements in the Army have refused to carry out missions in certain areas of the country, and there are instances of police training solely to secure a weapon and ammunition to engage in sectarian violence.

The commission also noted that the Army carries out missions with inadequate equipment because Congress "has resisted fully funding Iraqi forces." The U.S. earmarked $3 billion for Iraqi defense forces in 2006, less than what the U.S. spends in Iraq every two weeks, it said.

The general who has been nominated to command all U.S. forces in Iraq appears to be confident Dubik is up for the task; the two are longtime friends.

The formal nomination of Lt. Gen. David Petraeus was announced at the same time as Dubik's. Petraeus is in line to receive a fourth star as commander of Multi-National Force-Iraq.

Dubik told The New York Times that he and Petraeus taught together at West Point.

"He is one of the Army's smartest and most innovative leaders as well as one of our toughest leaders," Dubik said of Petraeus in an e-mail to the newspaper.

A Pentagon spokesman said it's unknown when Dubik will appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee, when he will leave Fort Lewis if confirmed for the new job, and who would succeed him at the Army post.

"There's a lot of unknowns out there as far as timing," Lt. Col. Todd Vician said.

Dubik took command of Fort Lewis and I Corps in November 2004. I Corps commands most units at the Army post and conducts planning with other active-duty and Reserve forces in the U.S. and around the Pacific Rim.

Fort Lewis has more than 28,000 active-duty and Reserve personnel and thousands of civilian employees.

Despite the likely prospect of a new job, Dubik knows that Fort Lewis remains his command, said Lt. Col. Dan Williams, Fort Lewis spokesman. Dubik was unavailable for comment Friday.

"I don't think there's going to be any concern, at least from my perspective, that the mission will suffer," Williams said. "We're focused."

Christian Hill covers the city of Lacey and military for The Olympian. He can be reached at 360-754-5427 or chill@theolympian.com.

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