Maliki’s Security Forces Plan Shows Progress, U.S. General Says
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 2, 2006 Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s recent plan to beef up Iraq’s security forces is a positive step toward creating a force able to operate independently with minimal coalition support, a senior U.S. official in Baghdad told reporters today.
Army Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, spokesman for Multinational Force Iraq, praised Maliki’s leadership in building more capability and flexibility within “an ever-growing and increasingly capable Iraqi security force.”
Caldwell called these forces “an integral part of the coordinated coalition and Iraqi force effort to build Iraq into a country governed by the rule of law, with order secured by an effective and honest security force and with a justice system administered by a free and fair judiciary.”
He pointed to specific milestones toward developing the kind of security forces Iraq will require to continue aggressive operations against terrorists and death squad members with minimal outside support.
-- A previously announced plan to add 12,000 troops to the Iraqi military. This increase would bring staffing in Iraq’s 112 existing combat brigades to 110 percent of their current authorized levels, offsetting any temporary gaps created through attrition and normal leaves, Caldwell said.
-- An initiative, announced Oct. 31, to boost the Iraqi military by another 18,700 troops. This measure will provide the Iraqi government three additional command headquarters, five additional brigade headquarters, 20 additional battalions and one additional special operations battalion. In addition to more combat power in Iraq’s most heavily contested areas, Caldwell said these units will provide an operational reserve able to move quickly around the country and provide redundancy within the Iraqi army as its forces go through their regular training cycles.
-- Progress in building Iraq’s security forces to the point where they can lead operations, now at the 75 percent mark. Six Iraqi division headquarters, 30 brigades and 91 battalions are currently in the lead, Caldwell reported.
-- The transfer of more responsibility for geographic areas to Iraqi forces. Earlier this week, for example, the 4th Brigade, 8th Iraqi Division, headquarters officially assumed control of areas in Karbala province from the U.S. 4th Infantry Division, Caldwell noted.
-- The 4th National Police Brigade’s completion yesterday of phase two of its national police transformation training. The brigade is among nine Iraqi national police brigades to receive the training, designed to ensure they are capable of maintaining public order and providing civil protection to citizens in accordance with the rule of law and international human rights standards, Caldwell said.
-- Greater cooperation toward securing Baghdad, as demonstrated this week when checkpoints and crossing points in the city were adjusted to create less disruption for local residents. Maliki, U.S. Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commander of Multinational Force Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad collaborated closely on the plan, the general said.
Caldwell called these steps part of an overarching transition that might not always progress as quickly or smoothly as hoped, but is achieving Iraqi and coalition goals for Iraq.
“A transition is not always a pleasant thing to watch as it happens,” he admitted. “But when common goals are achieved, speed bumps and differences of opinion along the way are soon forgotten.”
What’s never changed through this transition and never will, he said, is the U.S. and coalition commitment to Iraq. “We remain committed to helping the Iraqis achieve our common goals -- an Iraq that can govern, defend and sustain itself,” he said.