U.S. Mission in Iraq Officially Changes Sept. 1

WASHINGTON, Aug. 19, 2010 — A fun­da­men­tal shift will take place at the end of the month in the mis­sion of U.S. forces in Iraq, a Pen­ta­gon offi­cial said today.

The change in mis­sion from Oper­a­tion Iraqi Free­dom to Oper­a­tion New Dawn reflects the improve­ment in con­di­tions in Iraq and will offi­cial­ly end the U.S. com­bat mis­sion in Iraq and change it to one of sta­bil­i­ty oper­a­tions, Pen­ta­gon spokesman Bryan Whit­man said.

Some 56,000 U.S. troops are now in Iraq, down from a high of 180,000. The num­ber will drop to 50,000 by the end of the month, Whit­man said. “It takes us from what has been a com­bat mis­sion to a sta­bil­i­ty oper­a­tions mis­sion,” he added. “It takes us from a mil­i­tary lead to a civil­ian lead.”

Though the “advise and assist” mis­sion does not offi­cial­ly change until the end of the month, Amer­i­can brigades have been in place and per­form­ing that mis­sion for more than a year in south­ern Iraq and now through almost all of the coun­try. “As a prac­ti­cal mat­ter, we have now been con­duct­ing sta­bil­i­ty oper­a­tions for the last sev­er­al months,” Whit­man said.

Six U.S. Army brigades – plus sup­port per­son­nel – will work with Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces through the end of 2011, when all Amer­i­can troops will be out of Iraq. The units are the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th brigades of the 3rd Infantry Divi­sion, the 3rd Brigade of the 4th Infantry Divi­sion and the 2nd Brigade of the 25th Infantry Divi­sion. Sol­diers with these units will be advis­ing, assist­ing, teach­ing and men­tor­ing the Iraqi army and police in a range of capa­bil­i­ties.

U.S. Air Force per­son­nel will con­tin­ue to help in train­ing the Iraqi air force, and Navy and Coast Guard per­son­nel will con­tin­ue to advise and assist Iraq’s mar­itime forces.

“This is not like a light switch, where one day you are doing com­bat oper­a­tions and the next day you are doing sta­bil­i­ty oper­a­tions,” Whit­man explained. “It has been a tran­si­tion that has tak­en place grad­u­al­ly over time.”

Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma has indi­cat­ed that the mis­sion will offi­cial­ly change on Sept. 1, and mil­i­tary forces and U.S. civil­ians in Iraq are mov­ing to reflect that.

While instances of vio­lence have dropped dra­mat­i­cal­ly in Iraq, dan­gers still exist there. U.S. forces always main­tain the capa­bil­i­ties to defend them­selves, Whit­man said, and will retain that right even after Sept. 1. Amer­i­can “advise and assist” units will have the capa­bil­i­ties to come to the aid of Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces if called upon, he added.

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

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