Lynn Examines Transitions Facing U.S., Iraqis

BAGHDAD, Oct. 26, 2010 – Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III said he is visiting Iraq to ensure the ongoing transition to Iraqi-provided security is on track.

Lynn arrived here today and immediately went into meetings with Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, commander of U.S. Forces Iraq and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey.

Following those meetings Lynn visited with troops of the 1st Armored Division and the 1st Advise and Assist Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division at U.S. Division-Central. He also visited with troopers of the 7th Cavalry at Joint Security Station Falcon located south of the city.

Lynn is responsible for the day-to-day management of the department, but he tries, he said, to get to the area of operations to make the connections with the decisions made in Washington.

„Anything we do in Washington is only important as it intersects the mission out here in the field,“ Lynn told reporters here today.

The deputy discussed three overlapping transitions occurring in Iraq. The first is the transition from U.S. combat power to the Iraqi forces taking over the security mission. The second is the transfer of responsibilities from the U.S. military to the U.S. State Department. The third is transitioning all U.S. forces out of Iraq by the end of 2011.

The transition of the U.S. military mission in Iraq from a combat force to an advise-and-assist force has gone smoothly, Lynn said.

„We help enable the [Iraqi] forces and work in the background, but we no longer play a principle role,“ the deputy defense secretary said. „That’s going to continue as we draw the force down further.“

The Americans and Iraqis worked together well to transfer this responsibility, Lynn said.

„The next step is for them to be able to operate over the next 15 months with less and less U.S. military support and ultimately U.S. forces leaving,“ he said. „The focus there, now that they have the combat role, is to make sure they can do the nitty gritty of defense as well, which is maintaining the equipment, supporting the weapons systems, acquiring new capability. That’s always a challenge for a new military.“

The U.S. military also is transitioning a number of missions to the State Department. Development, acquisition and training, Lynn said, are the biggest mission areas with police training being the most complex.

„Police training is a critical role and has to be transitioned,“ he said. „We’re looking at [transitioning] the equipment, the supporting materiel, building, bases –- whatever [the] State [Department] needs to do those missions.“

Meanwhile, U.S. military and coalition trainers are working „to transition the trainers and contractors from a DOD lead to a State lead,“ Lynn said. „In terms of the resources, the State Department is asking the Congress for the resources they need to do that. We’re still working with Congress to get that approved. I think there are challenges in the resource area.“

Obtaining the necessary resources, Lynn said, is critical to maintaining progress that has been made in Iraq to date.

„We’ve achieved something here in Iraq,“ he said. „We would hate, as we do this transition, to let some of that success disappear because we didn’t fund the appropriate amount for training and support.“

Lynn said the State Department will have to ramp up personnel as the transition continues.

„As the U.S. military draws down [in Iraq], the State Department will ramp up,“ Lynn said. „The partnership with State is strong. It’s not unchallenged, this is a very large enterprise, but I think we feel good about the way it’s going.“

And, transitioning troops and equipment out of Iraq is a huge job, Lynn said. Up to September, the U.S. military shipped 1.3 million pieces of equipment out of Iraq. This runs the gamut of computers to M1A2 Abrams tanks.

„Basically anything with a bar code [will be prepped to depart Iraq],“ Lynn said.

Today, there’s 2.1 million pieces of equipment left to transition and that job must be completed over the next 15 months, the deputy secretary said.

Meanwhile, the Iraqis are working to form their new government following the national elections held in March. Lynn said he hopes the Iraqis form a broad-based government.

„We do need to get a government formed,“ he said, „but more than the speed of the formation of the government, is the breadth and inclusion of it.“

Some issues cannot be decided until a new Iraqi government is in power, Lynn said. These issues, he said, include the future of U.S.-Iraqi military-to-military contacts and the Iraqi defense budget.

Regarding the Wikileaks story, Lynn told reporters here that the 400,000 documents posted on the Web are stolen material.

„We don’t think it should have been released,“ he said. „We’re disturbed about the implication, particularly with the volume of it in that it gives insight to potential adversaries to how we operate, how we interact.

„Indeed,“ he continued, „there are groups out there who say they are mining this data to use against us. We think it’s problematic in that sense.“

The Wikileaks situation presents some hard choices for the U.S. military, Lynn said. In the first Gulf War, he said, commanders wanted more real-time intelligence. The way the system worked then, Lynn said, was that intelligence was sent to Washington, where it was analyzed and sent back to commanders in the field. Often it was out-of-date by the time it arrived.

Lynn said part of the problem back then was the Internet wasn’t developed or robust enough to send the massive numbers of electrons needed to constitute real-time information.

The Internet is much more mature today, Lynn said, noting „the idea [now] is to get as much of the relevant intelligence out to the field as possible. We tried to change the process so the intelligence is available to warfighters, when they need it. We don’t want to change that. It’s an important element in the success we’ve had.“

Still, there must be a better way to protect information, so this type of massive loss doesn’t reoccur, Lynn said. One way, he said, is to more closely monitor the actions of intelligence specialists, for example, to see what type and amounts of classified documents are downloaded.

There may be a good reason for downloading classified documents, „but you do like the credit card companies do and notify officials of the abnormal use,“ Lynn said.

Lynn said he is very impressed with the work that U.S. servicemembers are accomplishing in Iraq.

„It’s amazing the job they are doing,“ he said. „I just [visited] a unit out at FOB [Forward Operating Base] Falcon –- where they turned over a base that had 7,000 U.S. forces on it. Now there are a few U.S. forces and two brigades of Iraqi police are moving in to handle the security for much of Baghdad from that area.“

That area, he said, was in a part of the outskirts of Baghdad that American forces had to fight their way into in 2006 and 2007.

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

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