Spokesman: ‘New Dawn’ to Open New Potential for Iraq

WASHINGTON — When Oper­a­tion Iraqi Free­dom ends and Oper­a­tion New Dawn launch­es Sept. 1, don’t look for a lot of fan­fare as the mis­sion offi­cial­ly moves from com­bat to sta­bil­i­ty oper­a­tions, the top U.S. Forces Iraq spokesman told Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice today.

Except for a cer­e­mo­ny in which Army Gen. Ray­mond T. Odier­no will pass com­mand of U.S. forces in Iraq to Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, there will be no offi­cial obser­vances of oth­er tran­si­tions that already are well under way, Army Maj. Gen. Stephen Lan­za said by phone from Bagh­dad.

“I think it’s not going to look much dif­fer­ent on 2 Sep­tem­ber,” he said. “To be per­fect­ly hon­est with you, we’ve been in sta­bil­i­ty oper­a­tions for many months now,” essen­tial­ly since U.S. com­bat troops left Iraqi cities last June.

U.S. forces haven’t con­duct­ed uni­lat­er­al oper­a­tions in Iraq since May 2009, Lan­za said. “Every­thing has been done by, with and through the Iraqi forces,” he added.

Mean­while, the troop draw­down has pro­ceed­ed smooth­ly and ahead of sched­ule. The last full brigade of U.S. com­bat troops left Iraq last week, and U.S. troop strength dipped below 50,000 yes­ter­day, meet­ing Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s direc­tive a week ear­ly.

These devel­op­ments have set the stage for Oper­a­tion New Dawn, a mis­sion Lan­za said is par­tic­u­lar­ly sig­nif­i­cant because it coin­cides with a changeover from a mil­i­tary to a civil­ian lead in Iraq. This includes the tran­si­tion from the U.S.-Iraq sta­tus of forces agree­ment that gov­erns U.S. troops in Iraq to imple­men­ta­tion of the strate­gic frame­work agree­ment by the U.S. Embassy.

The strate­gic frame­work agree­ment is broad­er in scope, Lan­za explained, estab­lish­ing the foun­da­tion for a long-term strate­gic part­ner­ship between the Unit­ed States and Iraq, long after the last U.S. troops leave in Decem­ber 2011.

As these tran­si­tions unfold, U.S. forces will con­duct three major mis­sions dur­ing Oper­a­tion New Dawn, he said.

They’ll con­tin­ue to part­ner with Iraqi spe­cial oper­a­tions forces in coun­terin­sur­gency oper­a­tions and to advise and assist Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces. By embed­ding with their Iraqi coun­ter­parts down to the bat­tal­ion lev­el, six U.S. advise-and-assist teams have made big strides in quick­ly build­ing capac­i­ty as well as capa­bil­i­ty, he said.

“More impor­tant­ly, it has helped us build rela­tion­ships with these forces to con­tin­ue to train them,” Lan­za said. “So that is some­thing we will con­tin­ue to do until our mis­sion ends in Decem­ber 2011.”

Mean­while, U.S. troops also will con­tin­ue to sup­port State Depart­ment-run provin­cial recon­struc­tion teams work­ing to build civ­il capac­i­ty and civ­il insti­tu­tions.

The U.S. Embassy in Bagh­dad has been work­ing hard to bring the par­ties togeth­er to break a near-stand­still in form­ing Iraq’s nation­al gov­ern­ment. But Lan­za said he doesn’t expect any major devel­op­ments until after Ramadan in the lat­ter part of Sep­tem­ber at the ear­li­est.

He empha­sized that Iraq’s provin­cial gov­er­nors and coun­cils are func­tion­ing, with the provin­cial recon­struc­tion teams and the U.S. Agency for Inter­na­tion­al Devel­op­ment work­ing with provin­cial lead­ers to help them build capa­bil­i­ty and devel­op their insti­tu­tions. But much of their suc­cess, he acknowl­edged, will depend on what hap­pens at the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment lev­el.

“I would sug­gest, both from a secu­ri­ty per­spec­tive and also from a secu­ri­ty capac­i­ty per­spec­tive, that the quick­er the gov­ern­ment gets seat­ed, obvi­ous­ly, the bet­ter that is,” Lan­za said. “We want to see the Iraqis suc­ceed. And we believe that if they get this gov­ern­ment mov­ing, they will have that oppor­tu­ni­ty.”

Lan­za rec­og­nized the poten­tial Oper­a­tion New Dawn will open up for Iraq.

“Iraq has an oppor­tu­ni­ty here to do some­thing very unique in this region,” he said. “We have sac­ri­ficed a lot here, the Iraqis have sac­ri­ficed a lot here, and there is a poten­tial right now, an oppor­tu­ni­ty right now, for Iraq to be a safe, sov­er­eign and self-reliant coun­try.”

Once achiev­ing that state, Iraq could serve an effec­tive role in enhanc­ing secu­ri­ty and eco­nom­ic growth and sta­bil­i­ty through­out the region, he said.

“The jury is still out on how long that is going to take to occur,” Lan­za said. “But I would just say that the sac­ri­fices that have been made have giv­en the Iraqis an oppor­tu­ni­ty to move for­ward here. And we are see­ing that return on invest­ment.”

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

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