Much Progress Made in North-Central Iraq, U.S. General Says
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 28, 2005 Considerable progress has been made in bolstering security across north-central Iraq as increased numbers of trained Iraqi forces are taking the fight to insurgents, a senior U.S. military officer told Pentagon reporters here today.
"One thing we are certain of: progress in every line of operation has been realized," Army Maj. Gen. Joseph J. Taluto, who commands Multinational Division North-Central, Task Force Liberty and the 42nd Infantry Division, said from Baghdad during a video-teleconference.
Taluto said his New York State Guard unit, nicknamed the "Rainbow Division," is getting ready to redeploy back to the states after conducting anti-insurgent security and Iraqi army training missions for the past 18 months. The 42nd Division's headquarters in Iraq is in Tikrit, and its area of operations covers the country's north-central region, which also includes the cities of Samarra, Balad, and Kirkuk.
"The role of the 'Rainbow Division' task force in Iraq has been to protect the democratic process while building up the capabilities and sustainability of our Iraqi partners," Taluto said.
He said substantial progress has been made in organizing, training and equipping Iraqi security forces within his area. For example, the general said, in February just one Iraq army division headquarters and four brigades and 14 battalions were operational in the region. Today, he said, two Iraqi Army division headquarters, five brigades and 18 battalions are operating in the north-central region.
Also in February, Taluto said, his soldiers were issuing rifles and uniforms to Iraqi recruits who were receiving lower-echelon military training at the squad and platoon level. Today, he said, each Iraqi army brigade has conducted three command-post exercises with their affiliated battalions and can also conduct higher-echelon company- and battalion-level military operations. Some Iraqi units, he said, have also successfully completed brigade-level operations.
"Nearly half of our operations in MND-North-Central are led by or conducted only by Iraqi army forces," Taluto said. Those Iraqi units now possess more than 85 percent of their organizational equipment and are working on establishing a reliable supply system, he said.
Taluto said newly fielded Iraqi army units have performed successfully during many anti-insurgent operations.
Increased numbers of trained and equipped Iraqi army units will be fielded across north-central Iraq in the coming weeks and months, Taluto said.
"We must now continue to grow their readiness by building sustainment capabilities, which will move them further toward independent operations," Taluto said. Military sustainment, he said, involves abilities to manage personnel, replace worn or damaged equipment, and other logistical tasks.
Iraqi army units have also taken over many of 10 forward operating bases recently vacated by U.S. forces, Taluto said. Such transfers of military responsibility are helping to reduce the U.S. and coalition troop footprint in Iraq.
He also said the Tikrit palace complex once used by Saddam Hussein that's now the 42nd Division's headquarters will be turned over to the Iraqi people.