Wolfowitz Visits Officials in Northern Iraq
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
LAKE DOKAN, Iraq, Jun. 17, 2004 Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz visited several areas of northern Iraq today, spending time with U.S. military commanders and local leaders.
At Logistics Support Area Anaconda in Mosul, officers of Multinational Brigade North briefed Wolfowitz on security issues facing the area, relationships with the local population, and the performance of Iraqi security forces.
A senior Task Force Olympia officer told Wolfowitz the situation in Mosul is nothing like that in the restive city of Fallujah. "You're not going to see a situation here where the city will turn against the coalition," the officer said during an operational briefing.
Military officials in the Mosul area are pleased with the conduct of Iraqi security forces. Officers briefed Wolfowitz on events surrounding fighting during two days in mid-April in which the Iraqi security forces performed admirably and the local governor did not flee in the face of the fighting.
"Iraqi forces are strong in the north, and Iraqi leaders are making a difference every day," the task force officer said.
He noted attacks on coalition forces are down since the April fighting. "We are convinced the enemy did not expect the Iraqi security forces to fight," he said.
After the briefing on tactical issues, Wolfowitz traveled to the airfield, where he met in a caf with local government officials.
During a press conference immediately following this meeting, Wolfowitz praised the local governor for his courage during the April firefights.
"We were impressed by the courage with which (Mosul residents) stayed and defended this city against an evil enemy," Wolfowitz said. "We were impressed by your courage, Mr. Governor."
Officials also discussed the impending transfer of sovereignty. Army Brig. Gen. Carter Ham, who commands both the task force and the multinational brigade, said it's not unusual now to see U.S. soldiers in Stryker vehicles patrolling the streets of Mosul or helicopters flying overhead. That won't be the case after June 30, he said.
"On July 1, what I want Iraqi people to say is, 'Where are the airplanes? Where are the Strykers?'" Ham said. "And what they'll see instead will be Iraqi forces."
Ham explained to reporters traveling with Wolfowitz that the nature of TF Olympia's mission will change after the handover. He said the unit's mission to date has been to disrupt attacks; the new mission will be to support the Iraqi forces.