Culmination Briefing: Brig. Gen. Keith Walker, May 31, 2009
Brig. Gen. Keith Walker, commander, Iraqi Assistance Group, MNC-I, provides a culmination briefing.
BRIGADIER GENERAL KEITH WALKER, COMMANDER IRAQI ASSISTANCE GROUP, BAGHDAD, MULTI-NATIONAL CORPS-IRAQ
DATE: 31 MAY 2009
TRANSCRIBED BY: SOS INTERNATIONAL
BG KEITH WALKER WITH CAMPBELL ROBERTSON, NEW YORK TIMES; CHELSEA CARTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS; JONATHAN BLAKELY, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO; ARTHUR MACMILLAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE; AND VARIOUS REPORTERS FROM ARABIC-SPEAKING MEDIA
(PH) = PHONETIC
INT = INTERPRETER
(INAUD) = INAUDIBLE
REP1-10 = REPORTER 1 -12
BG WALKER: Thank you all for coming. My name's Keith Walker. I'm the commander of the Iraq Assistance Group, and I have a few opening remarks -- Got to make sure I can make my volume work. Is this -- Let's make sure I can operate it correctly.
(Discussion about communications.)
BG WALKER: Okay. The, the end of mission of the Iraq Assistance Group this Wednesday is a reflection of the increased capability and capacity of the Iraqi Security Forces and the success of their Coalition partners, transition teams and their Iraq Assistance Group supporting staff.
For four years the Iraq Assistance Group has lead Multi-National Corps Iraq's line of effort for developing Iraqi Security Forces. While the Corps itself focused on security operations. Now, the combination of these two efforts along with advancements in civil capacity brought about the improved security environment that enabled the Security Agreement between the U.S. and Iraq, another reflection of progress.
The security situation today is much improved from where we were just a year ago and remarkably improved from two years ago. In May of 2007, Iraq saw an average of 900 attacks per week. In May of 2008 the average was 200 attacks per week. And for 22 of the last 26 weeks, we've seen less than 100 attacks per week. Since the height of the surge we've reduced our forces by 20 percent and have closed or returned over 100 bases and facilities since October.
The provisions of the Security Agreement make our partnership with Iraqi Security Forces that much more important. Our partnership is now an operational relationship between Iraqi and Coalition Forces whereby all operations are conducted by, with, and through the Iraqi Security Forces. It's characterized by combined planning, preparation and execution with Iraqi Security Forces in the lead. And it's enabled by a close working relationship and the collocation of partner units and transition teams.
The partnership helps develop the Iraqi Security Forces, provides access to enablers when they are needed and ensures situational awareness between Coalition Forces and Iraqi Security Forces. As Iraqi Security Forces increase in capability and capacity, our partnerships shift their focus to command and control, sustainment and enabler units. We have reached the point where partnership is the core, C-O-R-E, of what Multi-National Corps Iraq does.
So our shared success begs the question: Why end the mission of the Iraq Assistance Group? And the answer is because things have changed; it no longer makes sense to have two organizations doing the same thing. In recognition of the changing environment, we have merged the operational security force assistance function of the Iraq Assistance Group with the Multi-National Corps staff.
In reflection, this organizational change is in keeping with the Iraq Assistance Group's history in that the Iraq Assistance Group has done a good job in keeping pace with the changing environment. When the group was formed in 2005, it managed the reception, staging and onward movement and integration of transition teams. It provided them with equipment and technical support. Security Force assistance at that time was focused on recruiting Iraqi citizens into the security forces, basic training, equipping and forming units. As Iraqi Security Forces deployed throughout Iraq to perform security operations, transition teams accompanied them, and the Iraq Assistance Group assumed administrative control over those teams. As both the force generation and the numbers of Iraqi units operating out in the field grew, the Iraq Assistance Group adjusted with the environment and added to that -- to their functions linking with Multi-National Corps's Maneuvers Forces with Multi-National Security Transition Command Iraq so that we could coordinate the equipping and training with the Corps's operational forces. Over this last year we changed again while continuing to manage transition teams and coordinating with Multi-National Security Transition Command. The Iraq Assistance Group took on the function, the challenge of answering the question: What is the scope and nature of our partnership in the current environment, and how must we change in the future to best support the Iraqi Security Forces?
Now, based on the changing environment, the Iraq Assistance Group expanded its scope over this last year to include police partnership, emphasizing sustainment capability development, adjusting the training of our transition teams, and we reallocated transition teams to where they were most needed. For example, as Iraqi Army battalions reached proficiency, we shifted transition teams from those battalions to work with Border Security battalions. And most significantly, we developed partnership concepts for the future. Iraqi Security Forces are providing for the civil security of their country. The numbers exceed 600,000, including 14 Army divisions, three National Police divisions -- growing to five -- five Border Police regions, and about 300,000 policemen in the provinces.
Much has been accomplished; much needs to be done. The challenges remained (sic) ahead of us are great, and we must not be complacent. Both Coalition and Iraqi Security Force leaders recognize that. We are committed to and confident in the strength of our partnership as we continue to move forward.
And with that opening, I'd be more than happy to answer some of your questions. Yes, sir.
REP1: General, Campbell Robertson, New York Times. In Baghdad itself will -- will there be any JSS's open with -- after June 3rd (sic) with combat troops who are every -- if there's any troop presence outside of the main bases in Baghdad, will they all be advisory, or will there actually be a combat presence in JSS's or outposts in Baghdad after June 30th?
BG WALKER: Okay. We will adhere to the Security Agreement. So all combat forces will be out of the cities, you know, unless there's a specific invitation from the Government of Iraq; otherwise, we will have advisory and assist capabilities present also at the, at the invitation of Iraq. Sir, you had a question, I believe?
REP2: As Salamu 'Alaykum. (Speaks in Arabic.)
INT: (Inaud) -- Iraqiya. Is the forces are staying in Baghdad, combat force and training force, or if so, are you going to leave them there anyways and evaluate -- violate the Security Agreement if necessary?
BG WALKER: The Multi-National Force is committed to adhering to all provisions of the Security Agreement so that by the end of June, all combat forces will leave Baghdad. If the Government of Iraq would like to leave combat forces, they would have to ask and we would have to coordinate that. That has not happened at this time. So any forces remaining would be at the invitation of Iraq. We expect in a -- in an advisory or assistance function. Yes, ma'am.
REP3: Chelsea Carter of AP. So there has been no invitation? I'm just curious how many troops does that mean will stay within the city of Baghdad if you're pulling combat troops, and how will you denote that these are advisors and trainers so that folks don't think they're...
BG WALKER: Well, it's -- it's a question- -- see, all, all of our soldiers are trained in combat tasks. So it's not a question of this soldier is a combat soldier, that soldier is not a combat soldier. It's a question of what is their mission. And the mission, after the 30th of June, all -- all combat troops will be out. So it remains to be seen exactly what those numbers will be. We have an ongoing -- it's called the -- we have an ongoing forum with Iraqi leadership where we discuss what their needs are, what they've asked with regard to the security of Baghdad. And those discussions are ongoing. Okay? Yes, ma'am.
REP3: That said, I'm curious, there have been a number of troops pulled out to the edges of city all right -- already? Quite a distance, so how do they come back in to assist or do patrols if they're so far out?
BG WALKER: Well, it is true that we have closed about, if I remember, over a hundred outposts have already been transferred to the Iraqi Security Forces. None of our transition teams have, have ended their partnership relationship with their Iraqi Security Forces. In fact, none of our partner units have ended the partner relationship with their -- with their partner Iraqi Security Forces. If a unit -- if a partner unit was to move, the partnership would continue; they might have to drive a bit more. But those who are involved, collocated, working with their, their Iraqi -- associated Iraqi Security Force and advise and assist function will continue to do so. Yes, sir.
REP4: (Speaks in Arabic.)
INT: Questions about Mosul, is Coalition Forces are withdrawing from Mosul? Because they are saying -- (inaud) are saying Mosul's security is not that good. Are you withdrawing from Mosul anyways or no?
BG WALKER: The Security Agreement, those provisions apply to Mosul as well as Baghdad, and yes, all the cities in Iraq. So we intend to leave -- combat forces will leave Mosul by the 30th of June also, just like in Baghdad, unless the Iraqi government requests otherwise, and then those -- that coordination is done. Our advise and assists and our partnerships will continue. So I don't want -- there's not to be misunderstanding that, that the Coalition Forces are going to completely go away and that there will be no partnership and no more working together; on the contrary, our partnership- -- we are committed to our partnership. It's been very valuable; it is stronger now than it has ever been. And the partnership will continue. Yes, sir.
REP5: General, Jonathan Blakely from National Public Radio. I'm trying to figure out how to ask this question. Are there places -- Mosul, Baghdad, perhaps some other urban areas -- where you think that you might need to come back and assist post June 30th? In other words, are there areas or hot spots that you, you think that, Okay, this place is not quite settled yet, we probably will have to go back. Do you understand --
BG WALKER: I understand your question. And there certainly are areas that are more -- that have more conflict than other areas. And the gentleman mentioned Mosul, and Mosul is an area of -- where there's a significant operation going on. But if, if Coalition combat forces leave a city in accordance with the Security Agreement, they would only return at the invitation of the Iraqi government. That's part of the Security Agreement, and we are absolutely committed to that.
REP5: Can you speak beyond Mosul and other places (inaud) Mosul, perhaps where there not a mission going on, here in Baghdad where there are good days and bad days. Can you speak beyond places that might need help (inaud)?
BG WALKER: Well, the -- the, the conditions would still have to be the same regardless of where it was; in other words, after the 30th of June, for combat forces to reenter the city would have to be at the invitation of the Iraqi government.
REP6: General, Arthur MacMillan from AFP. Just going back to Mosul: We're less than a month now, obviously, from the deadline. Have those troops, combat troops already started to leave Mosul, because these things tend to take more than 24 hours? Or are they still sent -- those combat troops who will pull back, or are they still in the middle of Mosul?
BG WALKER: To the best of my knowledge, the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Calvary Division who partners with Iraqi Security Forces in Mosul is still fully engaged in Mosul. Now, there are various combat outposts that have already transferred, but I do not have it at my fingertips those, you know, which ones have actually transferred back.
REP5: They're still fully deployed?
BG WALKER: Yes. Yeah. They're still involved in partnership with Iraqi Security Forces, conducting clearing operations in Mosul. Yes, sir.
REP7: (Speaks in Arabic.)
INT: After the withdrawal of the Americans from Iraq or from the cities, do you think that the Iraqi forces are capable to lead the security in the cities?
BG WALKER: You know, the Iraqi Security Forces have made tremendous progress, and in my introductory remarks I referred to that. But challenges do remain. But if we look at, at right now, violence levels have decreased so much, and although there are, you know, peaks and valleys, we are pretty much at a steady state of a low level of violence. And that steady state is maintained by the Iraqi Security Forces. There are challenges ahead. The Iraqi Security Forces are working on the development of their enablers, and by "enablers" I mean capabilities like engineering capabilities, and bomb disposal capabilities. Logistics capabilities. Even with enablers, a great deal of progress has been made. For example, in the Iraqi Army, most every division has a functional bomb disposal company to react to situations during their normal day to day affairs. But there are much -- there's much more work that needs to be done. And the Iraqi Security Forces do have a plan for the development of these enablers which will enable them to do these security operations more and more independently as those functions are developed. Okay? Yes, sir.
REP8: (Speaks in Arabic.)
INT: -- the forces, after the 30th of June, the forces are coming out from Baghdad. Do you think there is any camps out -- outskirt of Baghdad that, that they going to go to, or do you think they're just going to be sent home? Thank you.
BG WALKER: When the forces come out of Baghdad on the 30th of June, or as forces come out, they will go to bases outside of the cities. Over time, those forces will go home. The Security Agreement is quite clear that all forces must be gone by December of 2011. And right now we're at, I think about 135,000 forces today. So all the forces have to be gone by December of 2011. The President has clearly stated that in August we intend to have a very explicit change of mission, in August of 2010. And that mission would be to conduct stability operations, which is very heavily on working -- focus on our partnership with Iraqi Security Forces. So the reason why I, I give you that background is, if we go to 135,000 today, to all forces departure by 2011, you know, over time those forces will decrease. Now, the pace of that decrease and the movement of those forces will be determined by General Odierno in coordination with the Government of Iraq based on the conditions that exist. But specifically by 30 June, do I expect to see a precipitous movement of, of Coalition combat forces out of the city back to the United States? No, I don't think we would expect to see that. I think we would expect to see those forces leave the city because the partnership continues. And the partnership between Iraqi Security Forces and the Coalition Forces has been extremely successful, and with the Security Agreement, it's that much more important. He has a follow up, please.
REP8: (Speaks in Arabic.)
INT: I didn't meant -- I didn't meant the withdrawal from the cities (inaud) to state. What I meant is are the forces that actually withdrawing from the city, where are they going? What camps outside the city?
BG WALKER: Oh, okay. Specifically which camps, I would have to get back to you on which ones they go to. There are several locations that have room for forces, combat forces who are in the city to come out of the city. For example, where I live on the Victory Base, Liberty complex is an "outside the city" camp that has room to absorb more forces. But I do not know specifically who's going where at this time. Other questions? Yes, ma'am.
REP3: Quick follow up to something you said when you started that all, all of these troops are essentially combat troops. I'm curious in cases like Kirkuk and Mosul and some of the other, quote, hot spots, are we just going to transition these guys from combat to... advising/training roles? Will they stay?
BG WALKER: No, ma'am. It's not -- it's truly not a shell game. It's -- What I mean to say is all soldiers are trained in combat from the enter they (sic) -- from the day they go to basic training. What I mean to say is that the delineation between combat forces and non-combat forces with regard to the Security Agreement is a function of what the soldiers' -- what the unit's mission is. So the partnership function is central to what we're doing, and that will continue. But that's certainly not going to be everyone. There are other, you know, the sustainment of forces will continue, you know, the intelligence functions will continue. Other functions will also continue. So what I mean to say is it's -- I think it's important not to look at it as that is a -- that platoon is a combat platoon and that's what they're going to do and therefore, after the 30th of June they can't do anything else. Most of our partnerships are -- There's two kinds of partnerships, really. It's really a broad umbrella. One is the transition teams. The transition teams are a -- which is what the Iraq Assistance Group's core function has been over the past several years, and that these soldiers are trained either at Fort Riley or marines at Twenty nine Palms; they go through a very deliberate training process in the business of security force assistance. They come here to Iraq. They link up with their Iraqi partner and they perform an advise and assist function collocated with that unit -- really to -- dependent on close relationships that they develop. We also have patterns with partner units, where an Iraqi unit and a Coalition unit do things together. They do operations together. Now, with the Security Agreement and the Iraqi Security Forces clearly in the lead, it is very much combined planning, combined preparation and doing operations together again if, as led by, as coordinated with the Iraqi Security Forces. Yes, sir.
REP9: (Speaks in Arabic.)
INT: Abdul Marubaya (ph) from Dalbeida (ph) News. What are the steps of giving back -- What are the steps of giving back things to, to Iraqis? For example, if you have equipment here, are you going to give it to Iraqis, or are you going to take it back with you to U.S.?
BG WALKER: Some equipment stays with our Iraqi partners; some equipment goes back to the United States. There are specific rules that our Department of Defense has established about which equipment must stay, which equipment can, can be given to our partners. And there are committees that discuss this with every single base's turnover. So pick a base. There's Iraqis and Coalition Forces; they form a committee. They talk about what the Iraqis need to have on that base, what they would like to have, and then the Coalition side of the committee looks at the rules, what the rules are for what can stay and what can go. And then the decision is made and the exchange of property occurs at that time. So it's a mix of things. Yes, sir.
REP1: Sorry. Two questions: One, I know under the agreement after June 30th that troops (inaud) with an advisory mission, an advisory capacity, can stay in the cities. Now, does that apply to any troops other than the transition teams? Are there troops other than transition teams that are considered advisors now before the advisory brigades start coming in? And two, the model of the transition teams themselves in terms of -- we've talked about this, the force protection issues --
BG WALKER: Uh-huh.
REP1: Is that model changing right now? I mean are there -- Are we going to see changes to that model in the next two months, three months?
BG WALKER: Okay. I think that's a really good question. I think -- And there is not a cookie cutter solution because no, no place in Iraq is alike. There are differences in every situation. So for example, we may have a transition team embedded, meaning they live with and work with their Iraqi partner unit all the time. And it could be that the Coalition unit that, that is close by leaves the city so that you have a relatively small transition team remaining. Well, that's critical to the partnership. How can you have a close working relationship if you don't live and work with your partner? Then the issue becomes well, is it safe? And force protection, every commander is very, very concerned about the protection of its forces. So they have to go through the analysis of, of asking that question. In many cases I would argue that the closer the partnership, the more secure you are. And I think that, that is pretty much the case all over Iraq. But based on a commander's analysis, he may say, Well, I used to depend on the partner unit to provide six extra soldiers to help me secure my movement with my partners when I had to travel. And if that battalion left and he could no longer get those soldiers, he would have to ask, to say, I need six soldiers to help me do my partnership mission. So there is a situation where they will stay because the nature of the partnership, but it might change from the standard size 11-man team which is most of our transition teams are 11 men. It could make that team, in that example, if it was six persons, that it might be 17 people in order to do the task. So again, it depends.
REP1: The first question, sorry, about -- are there soldiers who are considered advisors who are not on transition teams? In other words, who can remain in the cities after June 30th as transition teams can --
BG WALKER: Yes.
REP1: -- but who are not on transition teams?
BG WALKER: Well, there are -- there are others besides Iraq Assistance Group trained transition teams. Let me give you an example: In Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq, those trainers work on all of the divisional and regional training bases for the Ministry of Defense. There are also trainers that work on the, the various police academies. In this case there are international police advisors that work on the various police academies and police colleges around Iraq. So there's an example of some people who are not on the standard Iraq Assistance Group transition team that we've had for those years but are in an advise and assist function, actively engaged with their Iraqi counterparts throughout the country. Yes, sir.
REP5: One of the -- You said challenges remain a couple times, and one of the challenges you said was bomb disposal. And I know that Americans -- well, if a cache is, is discovered, you know, if it's safe enough, they'll take it to some FOBs outside of the cities and do a controlled det. Are you saying, or am I picking up that the ISF isn't quite ready to do that yet? If a cache is found, you know, in July, August, you know, after June 30th, are they going to try and detonate it onsite or are they -- do they have someplace to take it? What happens to things like weapons --
BG WALKER: Yeah.
REP5: -- caches, sir?
BG WALKER: Actually that particular one is a good example of where an enabler progress is made. And that -- I meant to give that as an example that every division now, I believe almost every division has a trained and employed active functional bomb disposal unit in the Iraqi Army. So disposal of ordnance by the Iraqis on their own is not an issue right now.
REP5: Okay. When you said "other challenges remain," then what other challenges besides that type of thing, what other challenges remain?
BG WALKER: Well, one other example I used was sustainment. The sustainment organizations of maintenance, supply, transportation. Those -- those parts of Iraqi Security Forces that enable long term independent operations that are -- and I would say those -- that is one of the challenges that remains, and there is a plan. The Iraqis do have units set fielding a plan, well coordinated with Multi-National Security Transition Command. But all those units are not yet built. You know, so you can say, Well, why aren't those units built yet? Because, you know, years ago when there was a requirement for Iraqi Security Forces so Iraqis could secure their own country, you had to prioritize. And the priority was, you know, recruit a young man. Get him to basic training and have him join on his neighborhood or his -- with a unit on performing security. There was also requirements for bomb disposal companies, transportation companies, other logistics companies. But you couldn't do everything at once. So the prioritization was the security first, and so the business of enablers is behind. But it is moving and it is making progress. There is just simply a long way to go. And fortunately the leadership of the Iraqi Security Forces, the Coalition leadership recognizes that and we continue to partner together to make these improvements. Yes, sir.
REP6: General, just to follow up on what you said earlier about the, the numbers. Your estimate was around 135,000 just now. When, when you break that down to specific cities and Baghdad, what does that come down to just now? And once the transition teams remain after June 30 along with, if there are, advisors in addition. What's your ballpark on the percentage of what is there right now when the combat troops are stripped out of it?
BG WALKER: You know, I honestly don't know the answer to that now for a couple of reasons: One is the Iraqi Security Forces and the Baghdad commander in this case, General Bolger and General Abbud, the Baghdad Operations Commander, talk about this and analyze this every day. That discussion is going on, so the decision hasn't been made yet.
The other point is -- and using Baghdad as an example -- the second point I'd want to make is Baghdad is a huge city, of course, and when forces do move outside, the partnership will still continue. If an Iraqi unit and a Coalition unit who are, who are partners and have been working together, they decide to do an operation together, they can still do that operation. It would just have to be the -- at the invitation of the Iraqis. So our partnership will still continue. Entering the city would be a different thing. Going back into the city would only be at the invitation of the Government of Iraq. That's very clear. But there's plenty of work to do with our Iraqi partners outside of the city also. So again, I'd just -- The first part is still decided (sic) exactly who's gonna stay inside the city; the other is our partnerships together will continue but only in accordance with the provisions of the Security Agreement. We are committed to that. Yes, ma'am.
REP3: There's been a lot of talk about Iraqi Security Forces --
BG WALKER: Uh-huh.
REP3: I've heard nothing about Border, Navy, Air Force today, which are woefully behind as I understand it. So I'm just curious -- is this -- What is the Iraqi Security Force ability and what, what exactly are they protecting?
BG WALKER: Okay. Ma'am, when I say "Iraqi Security Forces" I mean everything. Within the Ministry of Defense, that's not only the Army, but the Navy, Iraqi Air Force, and yes, we have Iraqi marines. And it also includes Ministry of Interior security forces: The Iraqi Police Service, the Border Security Forces, the Port of Entry Directorate. There's a broad scope of Ministry of Interior Security Forces. The Border Forces is, I think, another -- I think there's a success story to be found in each element of Iraqi Security Forces because we truly have made progress. The Border Security Forces is a -- I can give you a specific example as relates to the Iraq Assistance Group. As we worked with our Army partners, there was a time last year when we had transition teams with Iraqi Army battalions. Well, the Iraqi Army battalions were pretty capable and they did not need transition teams to work with them anymore. We only have so many transition teams. The Border Security Forces had not had very much work with transition teams and there was an opportunity to adjust. So we moved several transition teams from Iraqi Army battalions to work with Iraqi Border Security battalions. And there has been good progress with the capability development of those units also.
REP3: (Inaud) for the rest of it, then? I mean, isn't that all part of the --
BG WALKER: Yes, it all goes -- it all goes together in terms of once you ask the -- Make sure I understand your question.
REP3: There was a lot of talk about Iraqi Security Forces --
BG WALKER: Yes.
REP3: -- and I had heard no mention specifically of the Air Force, the Navy or Borders; you just mentioned them now. So I was curious what it is -- they're ca- -- what are they doing -- I mean, what are they protecting at this point, are we -- because we're still doing --
BG WALKER: Okay. With regard to the, the Air Forces and Navy is not my area of expertise. Multi-National Security Transition Command works closely with them. But the Iraqi Air Force is operationally -- we see its operational capability has developed. Iraqi Air Force flies ISR missions, does surveillance missions for Iraqi Security Forces. They have flown for Iraqi Army units to take pictures; they have in fact done missions for Iraqi Border Security Forces, taking surveillance -- providing them with surveillance information. The Iraqi Navy is also increasing its capability; I do not have a number of ships that they have, so I really can't tell you -- give you any specific examples for the Navy. The Border Forces that we talked about, there are five border regions in Iraq. Think of each regional -- region as a divisional level command in that it has an Iraqi major general in charge. There are 14 border brigades within the regions. The borders of Iraq are roughly from Brownsville, Texas, to San Diego, California, to give you a sense of how large the borders of Iraq are. And those borders are -- forces are organized into battalions and occupy outposts along -- throughout the borders of Iraq. Their capability has increased in that all of those battalions are functional; of course, their mission is to, to control the borders of Iraq in terms of movement of contraband across the borders. And I think they're doing a pretty darn good job at it. Did that address your question about the -- because they're part of the Iraqi Security Forces too. Yes, sir.
REP10: (Speaks in Arabic.)
INT: I have a question about the readiness of Iraqi forces. Compared with Iraqi Army and the police, are they the same readiness? How is their ORI?
BG WALKER: Well, the Iraqi Army and police are quite different; I mean, I know that's a statement of the obvious. But they are -- they have two totally different functions. I mean, the Iraqi -- the Iraqi police, like police everywhere, have a very specific civil security mission. And in accordance with the constitution, that's what their job is, to, to secure the people. The Iraqi Army, you know, ultimately does the external defense of the nation of Iraq. But in times of extremists, which we have now, the -- under the direction of the Iraqi government they can be authorized to also do civil security operations. And this has been the case over the -- over the past few years. So you have all the Iraqi Security Forces heavily involved in securing the people of Iraq. So it is very -- they are equipped differently. You don't find the Iraqi police with, you know, they don't have tanks, the Army does -- the Iraqi police don't have mortars, you know, the Army does. So their equipment is different. Their mission is in fact different. The police -- In the Iraqi police system, when we talk about things that have developed in terms of enablers, first you have the basic police in the 18 provinces, 174 districts and over 1400 police stations throughout Iraq. But there's also major crimes units developing, the ability of the Iraqi Police Service to develop their investigative capacities, the Iraqi government is establishing forensic laboratories that are, you know, more specifically police task oriented. So as time goes on and the security situation remains, remains level, which it has, it's -- the police are developing their police capabilities more and more. The Army is -- continues to do civil security, but is posturing itself to, to one day pass all that off to the police and become an external security force like any other army. So I know that's the goal of the Iraqi government. And I think over the next few years we'll see that separation of the Army leaving the cities and turning civil security over to the police. But police capacity development still is working. There are still challenges, but it also is moving in the right direction. Yes, sir.
REP11: (Speaks in Arabic.)
INT: As far as numbers, you know we can, we can -- you can tell me your readiness on 80 percent, 90 percent. Just a number as a percentage, what do you think?
BG WALKER: I'm not sure how I could categorize the police as a percentage of readiness, honestly. And let me tell you why: Because every situation is different. I mean, Basra is not Baghdad is not Anbar is not Diyala is not Mosul. Every situation is different. And to, to try to compare one to the other would be -- it'd be like trying to hold sand in my hand. I don't think I would be very helpful. I think, I think what's important is that first of all, the force development of the Iraqi Police Service, the numbers of police is pretty much done in terms of how many police the Minister of the Interior wants to have. And I know one of the things the Ministry of Interior is doing, it's looking long term to see if in fact there are places where it may want to decrease police. But right now, the Ministry of the Interior is very much working on its police training because we've gotten most every policeman in Iraq through basic recruit training. Those policemen that have not had their initial training -- there's a very few thousand -- and that will finish this year. Then the Ministry is looking at continued additional police training. That is very much their focus right now, and I think those are for all the right reasons. I'm sorry I can't give you a number, but I don't think that would -- I'd be making something up.
REP11: Thank you very much.
BG WALKER: Yes, ma'am.
REP3: I just want to make sure I understand this: We are at May 31st; we are 30 days out. Is there no formal plan at this point to meet this agreement on June 30th? Are they still working on details? And is there any concern about safety and actually being able to meet that goal?
BG WALKER: You know, on the 30th of June, it says that "combat forces come out of the city." So that will go along, but it is true to say that there is -- we have not decided -- the plan is for combat forces to get out of the city. There's no plan that I'm aware of to ask any combat -- for us to say in the city, because our commitment is to the Security Agreement. So -- So I guess what I'm saying is of course there's a plan. The plan is to abide by the Security Agreement and combat forces come out of the city. All the transition teams who are advising the CIS (ph) forces, they will stay linked up with their -- with their partners that they work with who are in the city. So, so yeah, there is a plan, and the plan is to abide by the Security Agreement, and we're marching right along in that direction. Did I misunderstand your question?
REP3: Well, maybe I misunderstood earlier --
BG WALKER: Yeah.
REP: -- you said something to the effect of --
BG WALKER: I just can't tell you what bases people are going to; I just -- I don't know.
REP3: So there's no -- Somebody asked earlier about the numbers of folks that -- American soldiers that will remain in Baghdad, Mosul, and that kind of thing within the cities. And I was -- You said there was no number yet. And so leads the question to be, is that not determined?
BG WALKER: Yes. This is what that refers to. We talked about combat leave the city, trans- -- advise and assist capability remains in the city, and what I'm saying is these individual circumstances where a team has its partner or a partner battalion happens to leave and the team has to reassess the situation and determine whether it needs any augmentation for its own security concerns. That's an example. That -- all of us those have to be -- we work with our Iraqi partners to make those decisions on what those numbers are. And all I'm saying is I don't have -- I don't have that final number. I don't know that General Bolger and General Abbud have decided that yet. Yes, sir.
REP6: Just a slight tangent: Today we'll probably have the ministries from the health, interior -- Sorry. The figures from the Health, Interior and another ministry which escapes me right now -- casualties this month probably going to be less, I mean Iraqi civilian and Security Forces casualties -- probably going to be less than last month which was a seven month high. But this month is probably also going to be a seven month high for the number of U.S. troops killed, which is about 22 this month, something like that. What's your view on why did that happen this month, what will -- I mean, fair enough, it may just be a fork in the road, but you know, several, several instance (sic), and why did that number go up? Why? Why?
BG WALKER: Well, regrettably, you often hear said that the security situation remains fragile, and one of the reasons why it remains fragile is extremist groups remain capable of conducting very high-profile attacks that can kill a large number of people in a single incident. And that's -- that's my best answer. I mean, there's not a specific thing to point to about why that might happen. Fortunately, our overall levels are much reduced than they ever have been before. Of course the challenges to continue -- continue to reduce that. Sir, you had a question, behind the gentleman who just spoke, I believe?
REP12: (Speaks in Arabic.)
INT: I have two questions: First, how do you -- how do you evaluate the commitment of neighboring countries on stopping the smuggling over our Iraq; and the second question is: What do you expect as far as security in Iraq after 30th of June?
BG WALKER: Could you tell me the second part again?
INT: The second part is how do you evaluate the security situation in Iraq after the 30th of June?
REP12: (Speaks in Arabic.)
INT: The first question, and the first question is about how do you evaluate the commitment of neighboring countries on stopping the smuggling and human smuggling inside Iraq?
BG WALKER: Well, I think it is hard for me, from where I sit, to evaluate how the neighboring countries, what their, you know, what their commitment is to, to stopping smuggling. That's not something that I see. I, I am very familiar with the Iraqi Border Security Forces and what the Border Security Forces and Port of Entry Directorate does with regard to smuggling. I do know that the importance of Iraq as a key player in the region, all of its neighbors are extremely important in Iraq's sovereignty and that Iraq hasn't -- has relationships established with its neighbors so they can discuss these so they are establishing political mechanisms to discuss issues. And I think that's a good sign, and as time continues, that political capability would be able to address if there -- whatever shortfalls may or may not exist among Iraq's neighbors. And I'm very glad to see Iraq's government doing that. With regard to how do I evaluate the security situation after the 30th of June, of course that remains to be seen. But I'll tell you what I would be -- what I am concerned about is the, the security situation is not only a function of the Security Forces. We often always default to the Security Forces. But the security environment is a result of many different factors. Yes, the capability of the Security Forces is one. But the development of the economy and providing jobs for young men is another. The capacity of governments at all levels, local and regional governments and the national government, to function and provide for the people of Iraq is another extremely important aspect of a nation's overall security. Essential services for the people, you know, all these things together will determine, you know, what happens after the 30th of June. Now, I'm very hopeful -- one is by nature I'm an optimist; the second is after the opportunity to live in Iraq and two years and work for two years, and work more and more with my -- with Iraqi Security Forces, I've seen the progress. I've seen the commitment to the future of Iraq. And although I share the concerns of many Iraqi leaders and all of you in this room, I remain optimistic that this is something that we can do. But there are many factors that are going depend it (sic) beyond just the Iraqi Army or the Iraqi police. Okay. I'm getting the word that I need to stop talking. So I have to give you my closing remarks, or I'd like to give you my closing remarks, please.
I would like to say that we in the Iraq Assistance Group are proud of the part we've played as part of Multi-National Corps and the partnership with our Iraqi brothers-in-arms in the success of the Iraqi Security Forces. Our nation is committed to the strategic partnership with Iraq in accordance with the Strategic Framework Agreement, and the 59 transition team members killed in action are a testament to the nature of our partnership. While we end the Iraq Assistance Group's mission, our partnership remains steadfast as we strive to assist Iraq to achieve a capable, self-sustaining Iraqi Security Force that provides an enduring security for the nation of Iraq. And I thank all of very much for coming today. Shukran jazilan.
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