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U.S. Forces to Take on Different Role in Iraq, Officials Say

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 22, 2005 – As Iraqi security forces grow and develop increased combat capabilities, U.S. forces will shift from a focus on combat operations to a focus on supporting the Iraqis as they take the lead in operations, two Defense Department officials said at a Pentagon news briefing today.

American units already are partnering with Iraqi units, helping them with training, logistics, and other combat support operations, said Marine Lt. Gen. James T. Conway, operations director on the Joint Staff. This partnering will continue, with an increased focus on developing the Iraqis' combat support capabilities so they eventually will be able to function independently, he said.

Transition teams that assist Iraqi units will increasingly be made up of senior noncommissioned officers and officers who are more technically oriented and can provide the Iraqis with specific training, Conway said.

"They also are assigned responsibilities for the continued maturation and professionalism of the Iraqis, so that as they become more and more capable, we are then able to bring our units home," he said.

As the Iraqis develop these capabilities, more U.S. engineer and logistics units will deploy instead of combat units to help the Iraqi units function, said Larry Di Rita, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for public affairs.

The Iraqi units, meanwhile, will take on more routine combat duties, such as cordon-and-knock operations, patrols and sweeps, Conway said. The first example of this new Iraqi-U.S. relationship was during the operations in Tal Afar in November, he said, when Iraqi troops outnumbered coalition troops and took the lead in operations.

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Lawrence Di Rita
Lt. Gen. James T. Conway, USMC

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