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Gates Notes Change in Chemistry Between Iraqi, U.S. Forces

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

TALIL, Iraq, July 28, 2009 – The movement of American forces out of Iraqi cities has been a psychological turning point for the Iraqi security forces, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here today.

The secretary visited soldiers of the 1st Armored Division’s 4th Brigade, the test-bed for the Army’s new advisory and assistance brigades.

The secretary said he’s learned from Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, and from his own observations that the agreement to take American forces out of Iraqi cities has worked.

“Everything I’ve heard from General Odierno and [while] here is that it has been very successful,” Gates said. “The feedback I got here was that the agreement has changed the chemistry of the relationship” between Iraqi and American forces.

The sense is evident, he said, that the Iraqis are equal security partners. American forces cannot be regarded as occupiers, he added, noting “a real sense of empowerment on the part of the Iraqis.”

More operations are successful, more intelligence is coming in, and people have been very positive, Gates said.

Less than a month into the latest phase of the agreement that moved U.S. troops out of Iraq’s cities, the secretary said, he is “heartened” by the progress in development, partnering and the accomplishment of joint operations.

“I think three and a half weeks into this process, no one could have expected this amount of progress,” he said.

After a full briefing on the Army’s new brigade philosophy for Iraq, Gates said the new system clearly is having an impact on the situation in Iraq, and that it’s a testament to the flexibility and adaptability of American servicemembers that they can assume this new mission.

“These guys are a bunch of artillery guys who, with five months of training before they got here, are taking on new missions and having a big impact,” Gates said outside the main dining facility at Camp Adder here.

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Robert M. Gates

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