Mullen Credits U.S. Drawdown to Iraqi Forces’ Progress

CHICAGO, Aug. 25, 2010 — The U.S. mil­i­tary foot­print in Iraq is down to few­er than 50,000 ser­vice­mem­bers because Iraq’s secu­ri­ty forces are ready to pro­vide for their nation’s secu­ri­ty, the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today.

“It wasn’t that long ago that there were 170,000 [U.S.] troops in Iraq,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen told reporters. “What has dom­i­nat­ed is growth and con­fi­dence in Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces.”

U.S. forces are con­fi­dent in their Iraqi coun­ter­parts, as the U.S. military’s com­bat mis­sion there ends and Oper­a­tion New Dawn begins Sept. 1, he said. Iraqi army and police are more than capa­ble of assum­ing secu­ri­ty respon­si­bil­i­ties in their coun­try, he added.

“We’re very com­fort­able in Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces that can pro­vide for their secu­ri­ty,” Mullen said. “They’ve got some chal­lenges in their future, but they have led in oper­a­tions now for a sig­nif­i­cant peri­od of time, and we have con­fi­dence they’ll be able to meet the threat.”

For the past 18 months, U.S. forces have been tran­si­tion­ing secu­ri­ty respon­si­bil­i­ties to Iraqi forces. The remain­ing U.S. troops will work in an “advise and assist” role in sup­port of Iraqi forces for the next 16 months.

The U.S. troop reduc­tion doesn’t mean the U.S. military’s role in Iraq is over, the admi­ral said, not­ing that 50,000 “is a lot of troops.”

“It’s not a small num­ber,” he added, “[and] it’s a lot of capa­bil­i­ty. It will con­tin­ue to have a sig­nif­i­cant impact.”

Mullen said he’s con­fi­dent that the U.S. mis­sion in Iraq will end on sched­ule Dec. 31, 2011.

“I don’t see the role chang­ing,” he said. “[U.S. forces] are clear­ly in sup­port of Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces. They’ve got a very close, inte­grat­ed rela­tion­ship with the Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces, [and the] sup­port role will con­tin­ue.”

Mullen is here as part of a three-day “Con­ver­sa­tion with the Nation” tour across the Mid­west. The trip is geared toward help­ing local com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers, busi­ness lead­ers and aca­d­e­mics hone mil­i­tary vet­er­ans’ skills and life expe­ri­ence.

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

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