Iraqi Security Forces Continue Improving, Army Colonel Says
By Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 4, 2008 An Army colonel working with Iraqi security forces in the country’s southern provinces said yesterday their proficiency and dedication have been impressive.
"I am very impressed with the professionalism and the willingness of the Iraqi army to go out there and fight and go after the insurgents, smugglers or other special groups out there," Army Col. Philip F. Battaglia, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, told bloggers during a teleconference about the brigade’s mission in Iraq since deploying there in mid-June.
Battaglia's brigade, based out of Fort Hood, Texas, works with the 10th Iraqi Army Division and other Iraqi security forces in three southern provinces. The provinces -- Muthanna, Dhi Qar, and Maysan -- are under Iraqi control.
The brigade’s main focus, Battaglia said, is in Maysan, which is in the far east of Iraq, bordering Iran. It has a population of 800,000 and a land mass slightly larger than Dhi Qar, and the brigade is working with the Iraqi security forces to stop the smuggling of weapons and other munitions into Iraq, Battaglia added.
“Currently, I have two of my maneuver battalions that are operating with the Iraqi security forces, specifically the 38th Brigade of the 10th Iraqi Army, the Iraqi police and the 11th Department of Border Enforcement Brigade, which is deployed along the border,” Battaglia said.
The U.S. soldiers’ efforts focus on four key areas, the colonel said:
-- Working as partners with and improving the professionalism of the 10th Iraqi Army Division, the Iraqi police and the Department of Border Enforcement;
-- Defeating extremist networks;
-- Setting the conditions to continue the building of good governance and economic capacity within the provincial governments; and
-- Protecting and sustaining their forces.
In working with the Iraqi security forces, Battaglia said he’s observed that the Iraqi government has taken great interest in controlling the country’s border with Iran.
In addition to stopping the flow of weapons into Iraq, Battaglia’s brigade is helping Iraqi security forces prevent the flow of foreign fighters through the southern provinces, particularly in Maysan, he added.
“We have a strong presence working with the Iraqi security forces to protect and secure the Iraqi people, but also at the same time to prevent both accelerants, explosive munitions and also foreign fighters,” Battaglia said.
The colonel noted the sacrifices Iraqi security forces are making, notably “the thousands of casualties that they have suffered.”
“And yet [Iraqi citizens] continue to … join the Iraqi police and the Iraqi army,” Battaglia said. "To me, that shows their confidence in their system [and] their confidence in Iraq and the future of Iraq.”
(Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg works in the New Media directorate of the Defense Media Activity.)