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Historic Transfer of Military Authority to Take Place in Iraq

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 6, 2006 – For the first time since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, the Iraqi prime minister, through the Iraqi minister of defense, will take operational control of the Iraqi ground forces command structure and the country’s air forces and navy tomorrow, a U.S. military spokesman in Iraq said today.

“This is such a huge, significant event that's about to occur tomorrow,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman. “It's the one event that puts the prime minister directly in the operational control of his military forces as his role as the commander in chief.”

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will take control of the air force, navy and one army division -- the 8th Iraqi Army Division, Caldwell said. It is then Maliki’s decision how quickly to take over more divisions, but he will probably assume control of about two divisions a month, Caldwell said.

The chain of command will now run from Maliki, through the minister of defense and the joint force headquarters, to the Iraqi ground forces command headquarters, down to the division and the individual soldier, Caldwell said.

“This event, again, continues to show the progress as we move forward with the Iraqi army's capabilities,” he said.

Throughout Iraq, coalition forces are transferring operational control to Iraqis as the security environment and their capabilities improve, Caldwell said. Currently, six of 10 Iraqi army divisions are in the lead in their areas of operations, and underneath the divisions are 26 brigades and 88 battalions in the lead, he said.

“They're maintaining the lead in coordinating, planning and conducting security operations in the area in which they're operating,” he said. “With more and more Iraqi security forces in the lead, the number of counterinsurgency operations being conducted by Iraqi security forces, with coalition forces in support, continues to increase steadily.”

As Iraqi security forces assume the lead, they're also setting the conditions to allow for provincial Iraqi control, Caldwell said. Provincial Iraqi control refers to civil authorities in a province assuming independent governance and civil security duties, he said.

“Whether it's Iraqi security forces taking the lead or handover of governance and security responsibilities to Iraqi civil leadership in the province, we continue to see Iraqi forces, Iraqi security forces and Iraqi governance moving forward here,” he said.

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Related Sites:
Multinational Force Iraq

Related Articles:
Iraqis to Take Control of Their Army, Air Force, Navy

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