Troops Re-doubling Advise, Assist Efforts in Iraq

ALEXANDRIA, Va., Dec. 7, 2010 — U.S. troops are re-dou­bling their efforts to advise, assist and equip Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces in advance of the Decem­ber 2011 dead­line for all Amer­i­can troops to leave the coun­try, Army Brig. Gen. Jef­frey S. Buchanan said here today.
Buchanan, the direc­tor of strate­gic effects in Bagh­dad, said the advise and assist mis­sion in Iraq has gone well since the end of the Amer­i­can com­bat mis­sion in August. But more needs to be done, he said.

“We’ve got a lot to accom­plish and we are very much geared to get­ting every­thing we can do before Amer­i­can forces depart,” Buchanan said. U.S. Forces Iraq offi­cials are look­ing at many dif­fer­ent options for the next year, he said. “The big idea is we want to get as much done as we can,” Buchanan said. “We don’t want to start with­draw­ing forces and clos­ing bases now because that’s going to lim­it what we do.” Amer­i­can forces will prob­a­bly stay at the cur­rent strength through ear­ly sum­mer, Buchanan said. The troops are work­ing to tran­si­tion the police train­ing capa­bil­i­ty, for exam­ple, to the State Depart­ment in advance of the with­draw­al.

Buchanan said the just-under 50,000 Amer­i­can forces now in Iraq also have two oth­er mis­sions to ful­fill: con­duct­ing part­nered coun­tert­er­ror­ism oper­a­tions and work­ing the tran­si­tion of the mis­sion in the coun­try to a State Depart­ment lead.

Ter­ror­ism is still a prob­lem in Iraq, with al-Qai­da try­ing to stage a come­back, he said. “They have no sup­port among the peo­ple,” the gen­er­al said. “Their attacks con­tin­ue. Al-Qai­da is deter­mined and they have nev­er changed. But they have been degrad­ed through the com­bined efforts of the Iraqi and Amer­i­can secu­ri­ty forces.”

Al-Qai­da can­not attract mon­ey, Iraqis or for­eign fight­ers to their cause, Buchanan said. Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces have the secu­ri­ty lead in the coun­try and dai­ly attack lev­els are at their low­est since the begin­ning of Oper­a­tion Iraqi Free­dom in March 2003. “The ISF con­tin­ues to do a good job and they con­tin­ue to improve,” Buchanan said.

Two agree­ments gov­ern the rela­tion­ship between the Unit­ed States and Iraq, the gen­er­al said. The first is the secu­ri­ty agree­ment signed in 2008. Under that, all Amer­i­can troops will leave Iraq by the end of next year.

“U.S. Forces Iraq’s mis­sion will be com­plet­ed and our troop pres­ence will go to zero,” Buchanan said. “But this isn’t real­ly an end, it’s a tran­si­tion point based on the oth­er agree­ment we signed: the Strate­gic Frame­work Agree­ment.”

That agree­ment looks at the long-term rela­tion­ship between the Unit­ed States and Iraq in agri­cul­ture, eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment, gov­er­nance, edu­ca­tion, sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy and secu­ri­ty. The gen­er­al called the effort a chance to build an “endur­ing part­ner­ship” that will out­last the pres­ence of Amer­i­can forces in the nation.

Morale of Amer­i­can forces in Iraq “is pret­ty high,” the gen­er­al said. “They are mak­ing a dif­fer­ence, and you can see the effects of that dif­fer­ence day-to-day.” Ser­vice­mem­bers who served in Iraq ear­li­er -– espe­cial­ly in 2006 and 2007 -– see an amaz­ing change in the coun­try, he said.

“I feel very opti­mistic about where the Iraqis are head­ed, because I know where they’re com­ing from,” Buchanan said. “I’ve seen their growth in qual­i­ty and quan­ti­ty over the years. They are get­ting bet­ter and bet­ter. We’ve still got a lot of work to do. We’re not done.”

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

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