U.S. Forces Iraq Re-evaluates
By Jian DeLeon,
Emerging Media, Defense Media Activity.
Washington D.C. -- May 31, 2011 – (AFPS)
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
"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
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]
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,"