U.S. Forces Iraq Re-evaluates Priorities

WASHINGTON, May 31, 2011 — In Sep­tem­ber 2010, Oper­a­tion Iraqi Free­dom became Oper­a­tion New Dawn, as the focus of the U.S. mis­sion in Iraq changed from secu­ri­ty oper­a­tions to sta­bil­i­ty, with the capa­bil­i­ties of the fledg­ling Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces as a key fac­tor.
With the mis­sion tran­si­tion, U.S. Forces Iraq has changed some of its goals to reflect both the progress of the Iraqi forces and per­sis­tent threats in the area, Army Maj. Gen. Jef­frey Buchanan, a spokesman for the com­mand said dur­ing a May 27 “DOD Live” blog­gers round­table.

“Under Oper­a­tion New Dawn, … we have three major tasks for sta­bil­i­ty oper­a­tions,” he said. “The first one is to advise, train, assist and equip the Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces; our sec­ond task is to part­ner in coun­tert­er­ror­ism oper­a­tions; and our third task is to sup­port and pro­tect the civil­ian work­ers that come from the U.S. Mis­sion Iraq or the embassy, as they work to build civ­il capac­i­ty through­out the coun­try.”

While the joint task force has been mak­ing progress on all fronts of the mis­sion, Buchanan said, a lot of work remains to be done before U.S. forces leave Iraq at the end of the year. Al-Qai­da and oth­er ter­ror­ist groups, ille­gal arms and mili­tias, and basic crime all pose threats, he added, but thanks to the com­bined efforts of U.S. and Iraqi forces — cou­pled with the death of Osama bin Laden — al-Qaida’s influ­ence, finances, and abil­i­ty to recruit new mem­bers or bring in for­eign fight­ers has been great­ly dimin­ished.

Although al-Qaida’s effect now is iso­lat­ed, the organization’s strict adher­ence to rad­i­cal ide­olo­gies and its will­ing­ness to con­tin­u­al­ly mur­der inno­cents make the group dan­ger­ous, the gen­er­al said.

Iraqi and U.S. forces also see a prob­lem in small­er, for­eign mili­tias, the most preva­lent being the Promised Day Brigade, Asaib al-Haq and Kataib Hezbol­lah, Buchanan said. These forces, which are not Iraqi-financed, may not have the country’s best inter­ests in mind, he added.

“Because they fre­quent­ly rep­re­sent a for­eign agen­da, they under­mine Iraq’s sov­er­eign­ty,” he said. “They’re also, as I see it, an affront to all Iraqis, in that there is only one legit­i­mate secu­ri­ty force in the coun­try, and that’s the Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces.”

In addi­tion, vio­lent crimes such as armed rob­beries, assas­si­na­tions and kid­nap­pings are exac­er­bat­ed by easy access to arms and ammu­ni­tion, Buchanan acknowl­edged, not­ing that these vio­lent activ­i­ties are not nec­es­sar­i­ly relat­ed to ter­ror­ism. These vio­lent attacks have gone from 145 a day in 2007 to just about 13 a day in the first four months of 2011, the gen­er­al said, call­ing that a pos­i­tive trend and a sign the coun­try is head­ing into sta­bil­i­ty.

“You see signs of nor­mal­cy through­out the coun­try, and the traf­fic is flow­ing a lot more freely,” he said. “Police are pulling secu­ri­ty, as well as the army. The secu­ri­ty forces are increas­ing­ly pro­fes­sion­al, and the secu­ri­ty forces, in fact, deserve much of the cred­it for all of the sig­nif­i­cant secu­ri­ty improve­ments.”

U.S. Forces Iraq offi­cials hope to help the Iraqi forces in estab­lish­ing com­pe­tent intel­li­gence net­works to main­tain and even fur­ther decrease these trends, the gen­er­al said.

“One of our major efforts for the rest of the year … that we’re very much focused on [is] help­ing them build a sys­tem of sys­tems that allows them to work togeth­er across all agen­cies to bet­ter iden­ti­fy col­lec­tion require­ments, to share, to ana­lyze and then dis­sem­i­nate [intel­li­gence data] across agen­cies.”

Buchanan said offi­cials also plan to help the Iraqi forces with sus­tain­ment and logis­tics, as well as the inte­gra­tion of com­bined arms into their oper­a­tions. Right now, he said, the Iraqi forces are a force for exter­nal defense of the coun­try, but imple­ment­ing infantry, artillery and armored forces and attack avi­a­tion would bet­ter meet the country’s future secu­ri­ty needs.

Even after the mis­sion tran­si­tion, Buchanan said, he hopes that U.S. and Iraqi forces can con­tin­ue to learn from each oth­er. He added that he sees the coun­tries hav­ing a mutu­al­ly ben­e­fi­cial long-term rela­tion­ship in oth­er areas besides defense.

“If you go back and you look at the words in the strate­gic frame­work agree­ment that we signed in 2008, that aspires to a long-term endur­ing part­ner­ship, and it sets the con­di­tions for coop­er­a­tion in a wide vari­ety of areas — every­thing from coop­er­a­tion in edu­ca­tion and agri­cul­ture, eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment, sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy as well as defense and secu­ri­ty coop­er­a­tion,” he said.

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

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