U.S. Forces 'Footprint' in Baghdad Changing
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 1, 2004 The footprint of U.S. troops in Baghdad is changing as Iraqis assume more responsibility for their own security, said the commander of the 1st Armored Division here.
Brig. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, commander of the 40,000-member task force in charge of Baghdad and its environs, said the idea for the change began in July.
The idea is that as the Iraqi security services became more capable, there would be less need for American soldiers in Baghdad. "We began building base camps for our successors that are outside the city limits," Dempsey said.
When the 1st Cavalry Division replaces the 1st Armored Division in the coming months, "they will be on the outside looking in. We were very much on the inside looking out."
When the 1st Armored Division took responsibility, 60 base camps were seeded throughout the city, and Dempsey said that was appropriate then. There was no Iraqi police force. The Iraqi Civil Defense Corps was an idea. U.S. soldiers were the sole source of security and stability in the region.
"When you put 60 U.S. Army base camps in a city, they come along with sandbags, concrete barriers, concertina wire and it just causes a lot of disruption," Dempsey said.
The division will move to six camps on the city's perimeter. There will still be a U.S. presence in Baghdad, with two base camps in the Green Zone. There are 28 camps in the city, and the division will go down to eight by May 1.
The American troops moving to the outskirts of Baghdad will remain close enough to provide support to Iraqi security forces if needed, officials said.
The ability to make this change is the result of the progress with the Iraqi police and the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, Dempsey said. There are roughly 4,400 Iraqi police in Baghdad, along with seven ICDC battalions.
Part of the security problem in Baghdad has to do with the perception of the police by Baghdad residents. Under Saddam Hussein, the police were not protectors of the public so much as errand boys for the Baathists. There was little "real police work" being done in the city, said a senior military official.
The Iraqi police now are being trained in rules of evidence, respect for human rights, proper investigative procedures and the like. Police now go through an eight-week course to ready them for the streets, and they all are properly uniformed, armed and equipped.
Still, the Iraqi people have to overcome 35 years of mistrust. The general said that will take time, and evidence of real progress by the police before that attitude changes. One way that will happen, the general believes, is for the ICDC and the Iraqi police to tell their own story. When he holds press conferences in the future, a member of the ICDC will be with him. "I believe the ICDC and the police are capable of handling the threat, based on the way we've attacked it and defeated it over time," he said.