Pace Says 2005 Successful Year for Iraq
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
CAMP VICTORY, Iraq, Dec. 31, 2005 This was a very successful year for the coalition and Iraqis, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said during an interview here today, as he ends 2005 visiting troops.
Marine Gen. Peter Pace said the coalition was able to take hard-won lessons learned in 2004 and apply them in 2005.
Training Iraqi forces proceeded well after figuring out how to perform the mission, Pace said. More than 212,000 Iraqi soldiers and police are now performing security duties. The size and capabilities of these forces has grown over the past year.
Large portions of Iraq are already under Iraqi control, Pace said, and more will transition as the forces are ready.
Iraqi forces continue to learn via U.S. military transition teams embedded in each unit. "As we looked at the (Iraqi) battalions we were turning out, we saw an opportunity to do it better," Pace said. "What do we have at our battalions that they don't have at theirs? At our battalions we have guys who can call in air strikes and guys who can call in medevac, folks who can call the cavalry if needed."
Pace said providing Iraqi soldiers with this type of safety net will give them more confidence. He said the United States providing this type of help gives the Iraqis the time to develop the capabilities on their own.
"We will be done with their infantry battalions very soon, and we have begun working with their logistics units," he said.
More and more Iraqi forces are taking the lead in counterinsurgency operations. Pace said many operations in the western Euphrates River Valley were planned and executed by Iraqi forces, and he expects that trend to continue.
Pace also spoke about shifting forces within Iraq. He said many parts of Iraq are peaceful and need little military force. Other parts, such as Anbar province, will need more military support. One measure of success is the number of people who voted in Anbar. In Jan. 30 National Assembly elections, only 4 percent of eligible voters went to the polls in the province. In October elections, that number rose to about 45 percent. Election officials said they believe the number that voted in December was more than 50 percent.
Pace said that he is pleased with trends in the country but will not try to predict when or if more American troops will be able to come home.