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Iraqi Unit Assumes Security Responsibilities in Salah Ad Din Province

American Forces Press Service

TIKRIT, Iraq, April 5, 2006 – An Iraqi army brigade has begun the first phase of assuming responsibility for security operations in Iraq's Salah Ad Din province.

The Salah Ad Din province is a key area in the security of Iraq, U.S. officials said. It is in the heart of the country and contains many of Iraq's natural resources and industries that could bring much needed revenue to the country.

The 1st Brigade, 4th Iraqi Army Division, has been partnered with the "Rakkasans" of the U.S. Army's 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, since December. During that time, 1st Brigade has progressively taking a larger role in security for the province by assuming responsibility of security in residential areas, including Samarra and Tikrit, officials said.

Before this change in operations, Iraqi army battalions in these areas received directives solely from coalition forces. Now the Iraqi 1st Brigade has the authority to delegate missions to the battalions. Two of the brigade's five assigned battalions assumed their own operating areas in Tikrit and Samarra. The other three battalions are scheduled to assume areas in and around Bayji and Balad by this summer, U.S. officials said.

The partnership between the Iraqi army and coalition forces will continue, but the Iraqi army will continue to take the lead in gathering intelligence, planning and executing missions, officials said.

"Yesterday, coalition Forces were responsible for conducting all the operations in partnership with the Iraqi forces," U.S. Army Maj. Robert Bertrand, 3rd BCT Military Transition Team Leader, said after an April 1 ceremony. "Today, the Iraqi forces are in the lead. They are planning the operations. They are gathering the intelligence that is driving the maneuvers. They are going out and seeking and attacking the insurgency."

The 3rd BCT will continue providing support as the Iraqi security forces develop in the province. Coalition forces will provide assets, such as helicopters, additional weapons and personnel, for specific missions, but their involvement in missions will steadily decline as the Iraqi security forces take control, officials said.

Several forward operating bases throughout the province are scheduled to be turned over to Iraqi forces later in the year. The FOB handovers will give the Iraqi security forces secure installations in the area to conduct training and launch missions, officials said.

(From a Multinational Force Iraq news release.)

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