Iraqis Gain Capability Against Internal, External Threats

WASHINGTON, Aug. 26, 2010 — Even after Oper­a­tion New Dawn begins next week, U.S. mil­i­tary train­ers will con­tin­ue to help Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces build the capa­bil­i­ties to main­tain inter­nal secu­ri­ty and increas­ing­ly, to bol­ster their defens­es against exter­nal threats as well, senior mil­i­tary offi­cials in Iraq report­ed.

Army Maj. Gen. Stephen Lan­za called yesterday’s rash of vio­lence that large­ly tar­get­ed Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces the enemy’s attempt to intim­i­date the Iraqi police and mil­i­tary and shake pub­lic con­fi­dence in their capa­bil­i­ties.

Lan­za empha­sized dur­ing an inter­view yes­ter­day with Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice the need for Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces to remain vig­i­lant against the al-Qai­da net­work and oth­ers try­ing to derail progress, and cit­ed U.S. sup­port to ensure they’re up to the task.

Six U.S. “advise and assist” brigades fanned out across Iraq have embed­ded with their Iraqi coun­ter­parts to accel­er­ate train­ing and more quick­ly build both capa­bil­i­ty and capac­i­ty, he said.

“What we are expand­ing right now is not just build­ing inter­nal capa­bil­i­ty, but also an exter­nal capa­bil­i­ty to defend the bor­ders,” Lan­za said.

Army Gen. Ray­mond T. Odier­no, com­man­der of U.S. Forces Iraq, rec­og­nized Iran’s role in the uptick of vio­lence in recent weeks dur­ing an inter­view on last night’s PBS “New­shour.” In addi­tion to launch­ing direct-fire attacks against U.S. forces, Ira­ni­ans appear to be “influ­enc­ing some action by intim­i­da­tion,” Odier­no said. “So they are behind this. They are train­ing peo­ple. They are sup­ply­ing peo­ple with weapons.”

Odier­no not­ed that Iraqis — Sun­nis and Shi­ia alike — “do not want Iran med­dling inside of Iraq’s busi­ness,” and need to take a stand to stop it. With U.S. forces in Iraq tran­si­tion­ing to sta­bil­i­ty oper­a­tions under Oper­a­tion New Dawn, Odier­no expressed con­fi­dence in the Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces’ grow­ing capa­bil­i­ties to main­tain inter­nal secu­ri­ty and pro­tect Iraqi sov­er­eign­ty.

“The Iraqis have been doing the major­i­ty of the secu­ri­ty work for some time now,” he said. “And so I feel very con­fi­dent that they will be able to con­tin­ue. There will be ups and downs. There will be mad days, but they will con­tin­ue to pro­vide ade­quate secu­ri­ty.”

Army Lt. Gen. Michael D. Bar­bero, U.S. Forces Iraq’s deputy com­man­der for advis­ing and train­ing, agreed that Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces are up to the chal­lenges they face.

“After sev­en years of hard and dan­ger­ous work, and the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of the elec­tion results, the [Iraqi forces are] ready to take on full respon­si­bil­i­ty for the inter­nal secu­ri­ty of Iraq,” he wrote in a blog post­ed ear­li­er this month. “Iraq’s secu­ri­ty forces are bet­ter today in ever,” he con­tin­ued, not­ing that eight out of 10 Iraqis have expressed con­fi­dence in their abil­i­ty to do their job.

Bar­bero cit­ed some of the ini­tia­tives under way to fur­ther improve those capa­bil­i­ties.

Iraqi crews are prepar­ing to man the first of 140 M1 tanks that began rolling into Iraq this sum­mer. In addi­tion, 11 Iraqi army-run train­ing cen­ters across the coun­try are run­ning at full bore, and the Iraqi army is focus­ing on spe­cial­ized indi­vid­ual skills and prepar­ing for a major joint train exer­cise planned for April 2011.

Lan­za, who vis­it­ed an air­field yes­ter­day to observe Iraqi pilots train­ing on T‑6 train­ers, cit­ed progress in build­ing long-term capa­bil­i­ties with­in the Iraqi air force. It now oper­ates more than 100 air­craft, Bar­bero report­ed, and has near­ly dou­bled its force in the past year with plans to grow to 10,000 air­men.

“Iraq is train­ing its own heli­copter pilots and is build­ing a cadre of fixed-wing train­ers who will help pro­vide a steady flow of skilled fly­ers to defend Iraq’s skies well into the next decade,” he said.

The Iraqi navy now includes 50 ves­sels, which con­duct 50 patrols a month to pro­tect off­shore oil infra­struc­ture, ter­ri­to­r­i­al waters and com­mer­cial ports, Bar­bero said. Addi­tion­al­ly, the first of 15 new, U.S.-built patrol boats is slat­ed to arrive in Iraq lat­er this sum­mer, and the sec­ond group of Iraqi sailors will soon be train­ing in Louisiana.

Bar­bero also expressed con­fi­dence in Iraq’s coun­tert­er­ror­ism forces, which he said “are now very expe­ri­enced and effec­tive as they run both inde­pen­dent and joint oper­a­tions, main­tain­ing pres­sure on vio­lent extrem­ists in Iraq.”

He report­ed addi­tion­al progress with­in Iraq’s inte­ri­or min­istry, which has field­ed a force of more than 410,000 police across the coun­try. “The Iraqi police are com­plete­ly in the lead today, pro­tect­ing the peo­ple in the cities and gath­er­ing evi­dence when crimes are com­mit­ted,” he said.

U.S. advi­sors train only in a few spe­cial­ized areas at the 18 Iraqi-run police train­ing cen­ters, he not­ed.

These devel­op­ments give Bar­bero no qualms about the tran­si­tion to Oper­a­tion New Dawn in just a few days.

“I have no doubt that the [Iraqi forces] are ready to take on the mis­sion Sept. 1 and to suc­cess­ful­ly take the first steps toward what will indeed be a new dawn for the peo­ple of Iraq,” he said.

Mean­while, Bar­bero re-empha­sized that the Unit­ed States will remain at the Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces’ side -– the advise-and-assist brigades, at the tac­ti­cal and unit lev­el, and the advis­ing and train­ing direc­torate, at the min­is­te­r­i­al and strate­gic lev­el. “We will remain part­nered every step of the way as the [Iraqi forces] con­tin­ue to devel­op and build their skills until Decem­ber 2011,” he said.

Until then, Bar­bero urged renewed urgency in ful­fill­ing the U.S. mis­sion in Iraq. “This is the most crit­i­cal part of the mis­sion, the point when a com­man­der brings all of his resources togeth­er to close with and achieve his objec­tive,” he said. “I believe we are at this point now -– in the last 100 meters of this mis­sion.”

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

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