Final Push Needed for Iraq Success, DOD Official Says

WASHINGTON, Nov. 19, 2010 — A final invest­ment in the tran­si­tion to a civil­ian-led U.S. pres­ence in Iraq will pro­duce endur­ing results and cre­ate a sta­bi­liz­ing force in the region, a senior defense offi­cial told leg­is­la­tors here yes­ter­day.
“We are 10 yards from the goal line and need one final push,” Col­in Kahl, deputy assis­tant sec­re­tary of defense for the Mid­dle East, told the House Com­mit­tee on For­eign Affairs.

“The strate­gic div­i­dends of our enor­mous sac­ri­fice are with­in reach,” Kahl added, “as long as we take the prop­er steps to con­sol­i­date our hard-fought gain.”

Based on a 2008 agree­ment between the Unit­ed States and Iraq, U.S. mil­i­tary forces have a Dec. 31, 2011, dead­line for with­draw­ing from Iraq. Amer­i­can forces in Iraq now num­ber few­er than 50,000 troops, down from more than 150,000 at their peak.

Today the main­ly Defense Depart­ment-led mil­i­tary cam­paign is tran­si­tion­ing to a diplo­ma­cy-advi­so­ry-assis­tance effort led by the State Depart­ment and the U.S. Agency for Inter­na­tion­al Devel­op­ment.

DOD has an excel­lent work­ing rela­tion­ship with the State Depart­ment and we are work­ing togeth­er at all lev­els to achieve a suc­cess­ful tran­si­tion,” Kahl said.

More than 1,100 essen­tial activ­i­ties per­formed by DOD in Iraq have been iden­ti­fied, he said, that fall under 24 cat­e­gories, includ­ing intel­li­gence, telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion efforts.

Those activ­i­ties are now being trans­ferred to the Iraqis, the State Depart­ment and its offices, U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand, U.S. civil­ian agen­cies or mul­ti­lat­er­al or pri­vate insti­tu­tions, or phased out entire­ly.

DOD also is pro­vid­ing the State Depart­ment with excess equip­ment and tech­ni­cal sup­port and is plan­ning for post-2011 sup­port.

“This is a good start,” Kahl said, “but in the com­ing year DOD will like­ly have to do even more to assist the State Depart­ment to ensure a suc­cess­ful tran­si­tion — and we will.” Kahl said the U.S. tran­si­tion in Iraq also requires ensur­ing that Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces are trained to cer­tain essen­tial capa­bil­i­ties, and cre­at­ing a state-led police devel­op­ment pro­gram.

The mas­sive and com­plex tran­si­tion also includes expand­ing the U.S. diplo­mat­ic pres­ence and estab­lish­ing an Office of Secu­ri­ty Coop­er­a­tion, he added.

“Since Jan­u­ary 1, 2009, the Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces have been in the lead on secu­ri­ty oper­a­tions, a role that they have more capa­bly embraced with each pass­ing month,” Kahl said.

The Unit­ed States pro­vides vital sup­port, includ­ing train­ing, equip­ping, men­tor­ing, advis­ing and more, but Kahl said “the Iraqis are very much in charge and they sim­ply no longer need such large num­bers of U.S. forces to keep the vio­lence in check.”

The Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces have remained pro­fes­sion­al and inde­pen­dent of polit­i­cal pres­sure, Kahl said, despite eight months this year of “some­times rau­cous gov­ern­ment for­ma­tion nego­ti­a­tions.”

Last week, he added, Iraqi lead­ers took a major step for­ward by form­ing a gov­ern­ing coali­tion that includes all the major Iraqi polit­i­cal blocs. They also agreed on a set of polit­i­cal reforms.

Vio­lence will con­tin­ue to chal­lenge the polit­i­cal process in Iraq, Kahl said, “but as long as Iraqis stay com­mit­ted to resolv­ing their dif­fer­ences through the force of words rather than the force of arms, Iraq is unlike­ly to sink back into wide­spread vio­lence.”

Con­tin­ued U.S. sup­port to the Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces, includ­ing joint train­ing exer­cis­es and mil­i­tary exchanges, will help ensure steady improve­ments in Iraqi capa­bil­i­ties even beyond 2011, he said.

Con­tin­ued secu­ri­ty assis­tance through the Office of Secu­ri­ty Oper­a­tion, now being estab­lished in Iraq, will help address con­cerns the Unit­ed States shares with Iraq, Kahl said, includ­ing coun­tert­er­ror­ism, coun­ter­pro­lif­er­a­tion, mar­itime secu­ri­ty and air defense.

“As the U.S. draws down its mil­i­tary pres­ence,” Kahl said, “the Iraqi gov­ern­ment must feel that it has the foun­da­tion­al capa­bil­i­ties to defend against exter­nal threats both objec­tive­ly and sub­jec­tive­ly.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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