Army Secretary Says Troops in Iraq 'Well Led, Trained, Equipped'
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 23, 2005 After visiting troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey said today he is "optimistic" about the future of both countries, and that the Army is helping move to Iraq in the "right direction."
Harvey became the 19th secretary of the Army in November.
The secretary, who returned from the Middle East on March 20, told reporters he was pleased to learn that troops are "well led, well trained, and well equipped." He traveled to see first-hand how military operations are going, and to "make sure soldiers there have what they need to do their jobs," he said.
Harvey spoke confidently about the job soldiers are doing. "They continue to play a central role in providing security, facilitating stability and reconstruction, and increasing the performance of Afghan and Iraqi security forces," he said, and he noted that since Iraq's liberation and the successful elections in January, "the Iraqi people are now on their way towards a free and democratic society."
Though significant security challenges remain, he added, "there is no doubt that Iraq is moving in the right direction." The secretary pointed out that one of the Army's primary missions in Iraq is to help build Iraq's security forces and to make them capable of conducting independent counterinsurgency operations, thus "taking the lead in fighting the insurgency." He said the strategy is "well under way." To date, he said, the Army has helped train and equip more than 145,000 Iraqi security personnel, organizing those forces into 52 army and 44 police battalions. Another 50,000 Iraqi recruits are either in training or awaiting training, he added.
Harvey also said the Iraqi Army has grown in its capabilities, adding that one brigade recently assumed security for a large portion of Baghdad. "These battalions are engaged in operations across Iraq, both in concert with coalition forces and independently," he said.
More importantly, the secretary said, the Iraqi army is having "no difficulty" recruiting. "Young Iraqis are turning out by the thousands to join the army and help defeat the insurgency," he noted. Meanwhile, the secretary reported, the Army continues making great progress with reconstruction projects to rebuild Iraq. "By the end of March, more than 2,200 projects will have started in Iraq, with a total value of over $4 billion," he said. "These contracts now employ over 43,000 Iraqis."
By September, the secretary said, more than 3,000 projects will have started with a total value of $9.4 billion. So far, he said, reconstruction projects have employed more than 43,000 Iraqis.
Harvey emphasized that none of the progress in Iraq and Afghanistan would have been possible without the "continued superb performance of our soldiers -- the centerpiece of our Army."
"The nation and the free peoples around the world sleep better tonight because of the willingness of our soldiers and their loved ones to endure hardships so that others might have a brighter future," he said, "specifically, a free and democratic Afghanistan and Iraq."