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First All-Iraqi Aircrew Shows Security Forces' Progress

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 7, 2005 – The first Iraqi air force C-130 mission with an all-Iraqi aircrew Dec. 5 is an indicator of Iraqi security forces' progress, a U.S. military official said here Dec. 6.

In addition to this, elements of the Iraqi army's 1st Battalion, 1st Brigade, 9th Division, completed gunnery qualifications in preparation for operations in western Iraq, the official said, speaking on background.

More than 214,000 members of the Iraqi security forces are engaged in operations to secure the country for Dec. 15 elections, the official said. The Ministry of Defense has about 100 battalions of troops, one-third of which are leading operations with U.S. and coalition forces in support, he said.

Ministry of Interior forces also are progressing, with more than 112,000 members in operational units, the official said. Units include special police battalions, border patrol, highway patrol, dignitary protection and civil intervention forces, he said.

About 73,000 local and provincial police are in Iraq, which is about half of what will eventually be required throughout the country, the official said. Each Iraqi unit has a coalition transition team with it, and coalition advisory teams are helping the ministries of Defense and Interior, he said.

The U.S. has about 156,000 troops on the ground in Iraq, the official said. That number will stay fairly consistent through the December elections, toward which they have been working, he said.

"As we help the Iraqis plan and prepare for the upcoming elections, there are some very positive indicators of wide-spread voter participation," he said. "Still, security preparations are ongoing, and there are multiple operations ongoing in an effort to disrupt terrorists and other enemy forces from what we believe will be an effort to interfere with the electoral process."

Terrorists have threatened and attacked Iraqi security forces, but despite a campaign of intimidation, Iraqi forces continue to grow and progress, the official said. Operations with U.S. and coalition forces have resulted in the capture of many terrorists and the discovery of weapons caches, he said, but just as importantly, they have given the Iraqi people confidence in their forces.

"This type of progress is occurring across the country, as every day Iraqi security forces march toward the day when they will be able to secure their people and their nation," he said.

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