Iraqis Assuming More Control in Security Matters
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 2, 2004 Several shifts in authority over the weekend demonstrate that Iraqis are assuming more control within their country.
Pilots arriving at Baghdad International Airport will notice a distinct lack of Aussie accents after multinational forces passed control of the country's largest civilian air-traffic-control center back to Iraqi officials.
Royal Australian Air Force personnel have spent the past six months training Iraqi controllers to safely operate the country's vital air hub, according to a news release from Multinational Force Iraq.
The commander of Australian forces in the Middle East, Brigadier Peter Hutchinson, said the handover is an excellent example of the Iraqi people grasping new opportunities and working quickly to re-establish their country. "Baghdad's air-traffic controllers have approached their role with an eagerness that can only be shown by people looking to make a positive change," Hutchinson said.
"The RAAF personnel who have spent the past few months working alongside the new team are very impressed with their dedication, enthusiasm and skills ... we're leaving Baghdad International Airport in not just good hands but the very best hands, because it is back in the hands of the Iraqi people," he added.
In another example of Iraqis stepping up, the Iraqi army activated its seventh battalion with the graduation of 723 recruits during an Aug. 1 ceremony at the Kirkush Military Training Base, east of Baghdad. The army ultimately will consist of 27 battalions, nine brigades and three divisions, military officials said. The new Iraqi army is to be complete by early 2005.
Also, the Iraqi Intervention Force formally took responsibility for security of Abu Dashir, in the Rashid district of Baghdad, from the U.S. Army's 1st Cavalry Division July 31.
The IIF takes on missions that are beyond the capabilities of the Iraqi National Guard, including arresting high-profile terrorists or large cordon- and-search operations. Officials said this is the first time an IIF unit has taken control of a sector.
In other news, the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit assumed operational control of Najaf and Qadisiyah provinces from the U.S. Army during a ceremony at Forward Operating Base Duke July 31.
The Marines are now part of the Polish-led Multinational Division Central South. They will focus on combat operations; training, equipping and building leadership in the Iraqi security forces; and conducting civil-military operations in their area of responsibility south of Baghdad, according to a news release.
The 11th MEU forces are operating from three bases outside the major cities of Najaf and Diwaniyah and one air station west of Baghdad.
"As the Iraqi National Guardsmen, local police and border police assume greater responsibilities and build their strength, MEU forces will stand ready to support them in combat operations if called upon," the release stated.
A battalion of Salvadoran infantrymen and U.S. Army civil affairs teams, engineers and military police will augment the MEU's own combination of infantry, helicopters, tanks, artillery, mechanized and motorized vehicles and support assets.