Turnover Pays Unforeseen Benefits, General Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 30, 2009 The commander of Multinational Corps Iraq said an unanticipated result of the U.S.-Iraq security agreement is that relationships between Iraqi and U.S. commanders have improved.
Army Lt. Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr. told reporters traveling with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates this week that the improvement means better operations, better sharing of intelligence and better security for the Iraqi people.
The security agreement called for all American combat troops to be out of Iraqi cities and villages by June 30. American forces started pulling out of these areas in November, and Iraqi security forces took over the protection mission. American forces now are outside the cities and advise Iraqi commanders. They also are available if Iraqi forces need assistance.
Better cooperation between Iraqi and U.S. units has been an outgrowth -- and a pleasant surprise -- for all, Jacoby said. “The reason is the construct on 30 June is about Iraqi sovereignty and Iraqi security forces pridefully stepping up and providing security for their population,” he said.
“U.S., coalition and Iraqi forces are really sitting down and sharing operations, sharing intelligence, and really working out tactics, techniques and procedures,” the general continued. They are taking a broad security agreement and tailoring it to find ways to operate together, he added.
“Across the board, when I talk to my commanders, they tell me they are having better cooperation and developing more meaningful relationships with Iraqi commanders post-30 June,” he said.
Jacoby and Iraqi ground forces commander Gen. Ali Giban sponsored a July 9 video teleconference with 500 Iraqi and U.S. commanders to discuss the agreement and the “rules of the road” governing relations between coalition and Iraqi forces. Cooperation among commanders immediately improved as a result of that, said Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, Multinational Force Iraq commander.
Gates said security conditions in Iraq are to the point where he may approve speeding up the withdrawal of U.S. forces. The United States has 14 brigades in Iraq today, with two scheduled to leave the country by the end of the year. If security conditions continue to improve, another brigade may leave and not be replaced before the end of the year, leaving 11 U.S. brigades in Iraq.
All this depends on continued improvement, and much can still happen in Iraq, Gates acknowledged.
Iran remains a problem inside Iraq, Jacoby said.
“Over the years, we have seen persistent Iranian influence across all domains -- political, training for insurgents, lethal aid,” he said. “Iran has supported insurgent activities in Iraq, and we still see that today.”
In addition, Arab-Kurd relations could be a flashpoint in northern Iraq. Jacoby said the Iraqis are going to have to solve the political differences between themselves. “From a security standpoint, I have to set the conditions so the political process can work,” he said. “We do that by partnering.”
He pointed to Operation Glad Tidings and Benevolence 2 in May in Diyala. This operation included Kurdish and Iraqi government security forces working together along a disputed internal boundary. Coalition forces supported the effort. “It was coordinated, it was combined and it was without incident,” Jacoby said. “Coalition forces play an important, useful role in helping all sides see themselves -- not by intervening, not by interceding, but by helping each side know exactly what the intents and capabilities are and communicating back up the chains of command.”
The security picture in Iraq differs depending on where you look, the general said. In Anbar province, the security environment is positive. A series of attacks took place after June 30, but well below the 12-week average and well below previous years. “We’re comfortable with the security environment in Anbar, and there is a good partner relationship between the Multinational Forces West -- our Marine elements -- and Iraqi forces,” Jacoby said.
In the north, security has improved in the last year, but Mosul remains a concern. Iraqi security forces have moved into the lead in the city and are doing a good job in a tough situation. “We expected continued violence. We also expected Iraqi forces to deal with the situation and lead, and that’s what they’re doing,” the general said. “We have work to do, and there is still insurgent activities that have to be dealt with, but the Iraqis are handling it in a professional and diligent fashion.”
In Baghdad, officials are satisfied with the degree of security that has held since June 30. Violent acts are well below past years, and Jacoby said a particularly good partnership exists between the Iraqi Baghdad Operation Center and Multinational Division Baghdad.
The general pointed to Iraqi security forces cooperating to protect a religious pilgrimage earlier this month, in which more than 2 million Shiia pilgrims journeyed to the Khadimiyah Shrine in Baghdad. “Iraqi forces were totally in the lead in providing security,” he said. “It went off without a hitch or violence.”
The successful pilgrimage demonstrated the credibility of Iraqi forces, Jacoby said. It also worked to test the new ways that coalition forces advise and enable rather than lead.
“Across the board, still have work to do, still partnered,” he said. “Outside the cities, we’re still engaged with our Iraqi security partners in the full spectrum of operations. In the cities, Iraqi forces are totally in the lead.”
Credit belongs to American servicemembers for their flexibility and resilience, Jacoby said.
“We’ve asked our soldiers to adapt to a changing environment since they got here in 2003,” he said. “That’s the heart and soul of our formations: young leaders being able to understand the mission is different and being able to change as needed. We’ve asked tremendous things of our young soldiers and our young leaders, and they have stepped up every time.”