Iraqis Increasingly Taking Fight to Enemy, Petraeus Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, Iraq, March 14, 2005 Iraqi security forces are taking the fight to the enemy and will need to work to sustain their momentum, the U.S. Army general responsible for training the Iraqis said here today.
Army Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, commander of Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq, spoke with reporters traveling with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers.
Petraeus said the Jan. 30 Iraqi elections provided a boost to the security forces. Iraqis manned the two inner lines around more than 5,000 polling places nationwide. Insurgents launched more than 270 attacks on Jan. 30, but did not penetrate any polling place, he said.
Following the elections, the general continued, the Iraqi forces got a boost in morale for their fine showing, and the Iraqi people developed trust in the security apparatus. This respect has meant more recruits for the Iraqi army and police, and a greater role in the defense of their own country.
Iraq has 96 operational combat battalions today, Petraeus said. The battalions are out in the cities and rural areas of the country. They are going on independent operations and they are getting results, the general said. Iraqi forces are "shouldering the burden" in 12 of Iraq's 18 provinces -- the three Kurdish provinces in the north and the nine provinces in the south.
"It's making a big difference. You see it in Fallujah, you see it in Baghdad," he said. "You also see it in places like Tikrit and Mosul."
An example occurred recently in Samarra, he said. A special police brigade in the city launched an independent operation. It captured several foreign fighters there who had been brought into the country, Petraeus said. "They stopped them before they could blow themselves up and kill many others," he said. "That type of thing is happening all over Iraq on a regular basis."
In Baghdad, the Iraqi 40th Brigade has taken over responsibility for some very tough neighborhoods, including Haifa Street. "It is doing a very, very good job," he said. "So you see this process is already begun, even in the toughest areas in Baghdad and the Sunni Triangle. Iraqi forces are conducting operations and hanging tough in the face of difficult challenges."
He said momentum is going forward in all aspects. Recruits are being trained, the supply system is equipping them and the infrastructure is maturing at the right time to house and maintain the units. "More units are coming out of the chute every week," he said. The trick now, he said, is getting through the process of seating the Transitional National Assembly and continuing to build the security forces capabilities.
Some 145,000 Iraqi soldiers and police are trained and equipped. "That just means they are trained for the element that they are a part of, and they have their individual equipment," the general said.
Once the soldiers leave individual training, they go to their units. There, they get more training -- sometimes with embedded coalition trainers, sometimes from mobile training teams, sometimes from Iraqi officers and noncommissioned officers, and sometimes, Petraeus said, through hard experience.