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Iraqi Army Division Takes Security Lead in Two Provinces

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 27, 2006 – The 8th Iraqi Army Division now has responsibility for military operations across two large provinces, a senior U.S. military officer told reporters in Baghdad yesterday.

"Today is the day that the 8th Iraqi Army Division assumed control of battlespace inside of Iraq," Army Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, a spokesman for Multinational Force Iraq, said.

The 8th division is one of 10 such Iraqi army units now formed and will take the lead for counterinsurgency operations in both Diwaniyah and Wasit provinces, Lynch said. Those provinces make up a combined geographical area of about the size of the state of Kentucky.

Since 2005 the 8th Division's Iraqi soldiers have trained under Polish, Salvadoran, Bulgarian and U.S. military instructors, Lynch said. "They have transitioned through all the levels of capability," he said. "And today it was declared that they are now proficient enough in counterinsurgency operations to have the lead in two provinces."

Lynch said coalition forces will be available to provide support for the 8th Division, if needed.

Today, about 227,000 Iraqi security forces are trained and equipped, Lynch said, noting that's a 100,000-person increase in security personnel compared to a year ago. There are now about 138,000 U.S. forces serving in Iraq.

According to projections, about 8 of the 10 Iraqi Army divisions will be in charge of their areas of operations by next fall, Lynch said. Forecasts also say that 75 percent of smaller Iraqi army brigades will control their battlespace by the summer, Lynch said.

"So that is magnificent progress in growing the Iraqi security force," he said, noting that the goal is to field Iraqi security forces that can maintain domestic order and deny Iraq as a safe haven for terrorists.

"That's what we're seeing happening every day," Lynch said.

The 8th Iraqi Army Division's assumption of military operational authority in Diwaniyah and Wasit provinces represents "a significant, significant event for the people of Iraq," Lynch said.

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