WASHINGTON, Nov. 8, 2010 — With all U.S. troops scheduled to be out of Iraq by 2012, Iraqi forces are working to secure the country against insurgents, the U.S. Forces Iraq deputy commander for operations said today.
Speaking with Pentagon reporters from Baghdad in a video teleconference, Army Lt. Gen. Robert W. Cone said Iraq is moving closer toward self-sufficiency as roughly 50,000 American troops in Operation New Dawn serve as advisors.
“Direct combat operations ended Sept. 1, but our commitment to Iraq and its people has not ended,” Cone said. “One year ago, U.S. forces were in the streets with them, and now we’re in an advisory [role].”
Cone said U.S. troops have three key missions in Iraq: to advise, train and assist Iraqi security forces; to partner with Iraqis for counterterrorism operations to support the new government, the U.S. embassy and other U.S. agencies; and to work to improve Iraq’s civil capacities.
Within those missions is a focus on strengthening the Iraq security forces, developing combat systems and intelligence and logistics functions for the new Iraq government, Cone said. This requires working with Iraqis so they are a “learning and adapting organization,” he added.
“I keep pressure on extremist networks,” he said. “The capability to conduct counterterrorist operations is essential to maintain the security environment over the long haul here in Iraq.”
Cone said insurgent attacks in Iraq are down by 20 percent compared to the 2009 average, at about 14 to 15 per day across the country.
“I can cite significant progress on the part of the Iraqi special operations forces community,” he said. “More than 650,000 Iraq security forces are fully responsible for maintaining a security environment in Iraq today, so, I think it’s been a positive development overall. I think they’ve had some modicum of success.”
But work remains to be done, the general acknowledged.
“The [Iraqis] have work to do in a number of specialty-type capabilities,” Cone said. “They have an emerging explosive ordinance detachment capability, some emerging forensic capabilities [and] some route-clearance capabilities.”
Cone said he and his troops will continue their role to work with and assist the Iraq people in the next 14 months.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)