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Official Cites Increasing Iraqi Security Role With U.S. Backup

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 24, 2006 – As Iraqi forces assume more responsibility for security duties, they're receiving backup and other kinds of support from the U.S. military, a senior Defense Department spokesman said here today.

"U.S. military forces remain in supporting roles with the ability to offer a surge capability to Iraqi security forces," Bryan Whitman told Pentagon reporters.

U.S. forces in Iraq also provide logistical support to fledgling Iraqi security forces, Whitman said.

Whitman agreed with Army Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey's assessment during a briefing from Iraq earlier today that Iraqi forces are rapidly moving toward taking over border- control responsibilities. Dempsey heads Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq, which is responsible for training Iraqi security forces.

"Any sovereign government needs the ability to control their borders," Whitman said. "So the role of the (Iraqi) border-control security forces is one that is vital to the overall security of the country."

That's why U.S. and coalition forces have placed an emphasis on training up Iraqi border control and customs forces, as well as military and police, Whitman said.

Whitman said "there's no doubt" that Iraq has experienced problems along its western border with Syria, where terrorist crossings into Iraq have been alleged to occur.

"Military operations have focused on that (western border area) over the past year," Whitman said, noting that border "is largely moving towards complete Iraqi security force control."

It's very important that the Iraqis take control of their borders, Whitman reiterated.

"Being able to control one's borders is an important aspect of sovereignty," Whitman said.

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