Northern Iraqi Units Engaged in the Fight, General Says
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 5, 2006 All the Iraqi security forces in northern Iraq are engaged in the fight against terrorism and are making progress toward leading operations early next year, the U.S. general in charge of operations in the area said today.
U.S. forces in the northern provinces are focused on building an Iraqi security force capable of providing domestic order and denying safe haven to terrorists, Army Maj. Gen. Thomas R. Turner II, commander of Multinational Division North and the 101st Airborne Division, said in a news conference from Iraq.
Four Iraqi army divisions operate in the north, consisting of 15 brigades and 59 battalions, Turner said. Of the 15 brigades, three are in the lead in their areas of operations, and 18 battalions are in the lead. He said he anticipates that by the end of summer, two of the four divisions will lead operations in their area and by early next year, all Iraqi army units in the north will be in the lead.
The major inhibitors to independent operations are a lack of equipment and manpower, the inability of the Iraqis to sustain themselves, and a lack of systems or policies in place to manage the organizations, Turner said. The army was grown from the bottom up, and once the government is seated and a minister of defense is named, policies and systems will be developed to support the force, he said.
Iraqi police forces in the north also are making great progress as they partner with U.S. and coalition forces, Turner said. The U.S. has established police transition teams in all major cities and provincial capitals in the northern provinces, he said.
Six provincial police department headquarters, 61 district headquarters and 340 stations are operational, Turner said. Forces range from being poorly trained to well prepared to provide domestic order.
The U.S. has been consolidating its military bases in northern Iraq and turning many bases over to Iraqi forces, Turner said. The U.S. is operating from 12 bases in the area now, and by summer, that number will be cut to eight, he said. At the Iraqi-run bases, U.S. forces will remain in a supporting role, he added.
Northern Iraq has seen very limited secular tension, Turner said, and the Iraqi and coalition forces are doing good work in the fight against terrorism.
"I think we are making great strides in the war against al Qaeda," he said. "As we take al Qaeda leaders off the street ... we do see an improvement in the security environment."