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American Forces Press Service

3rd Infantry Prepares to Relieve 1st Cavalry in Baghdad

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 25, 2005 -- As the 3rd Infantry Division returns to Baghdad, Iraq, to relieve the 1st Cavalry Division, the focus remains on securing the city, the commander of the outgoing division said in a news briefing there today.

"The 3rd Infantry Division is a powerful and ready force dedicated to the future of Baghdad," said Army Maj. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, commander of Task Force Baghdad and the 1st Cavalry Division, which is rotating out of the city. "This is a scheduled rotation and does not represent a change in the focus on improving the city and setting the conditions for Iraq's government to fully establish itself."

Chiarelli said about $2 billion has been focused on the improvement of essential services. Included in those improvements are sewers, fresh water delivery, electrical distribution and solid-waste management.

"We also leave seven strong battalions of the Iraqi army, which are patrolling the streets of Baghdad today," he said. "They improve daily, and their strength (has) grown to a point the (Iraqi) 40th Brigade has control of a sector in Baghdad."

That kind of progress also will remain a priority of the 3rd Infantry Division as it rotates into Baghdad to replace the 1st Cavalry Division.

"As we come back in here, we plan to assist, now, with securing Iraq and achieving stability," said Army Maj. Gen. William Webster, commander of the 3rd ID, who fielded questions during the briefing.

He added that one of the division's primary missions would be to continue training the new Iraqi army and putting them in charge of their own security with the assistance of U.S. forces.

For the 3rd ID, this will start by fostering new relationships between the division's leaders and those of the Iraqi brigades, as well as picking up those that existed when the division was in Iraq at the beginning of U.S. operations there.

Chiarelli called those relationships "absolutely essential."

And though the 3rd ID has not undergone any special training on how to train the Iraqi soldiers, Webster said, it's a routine part of what they do.

"So, with the help of a lot of interpreters and our soldiers who speak the language and know the culture -- and we've been doing a lot of cultural awareness training this year -- I think we're set for success," Webster said.

That would be a second success for Webster and the 3rd ID. Though the division has been gone from Iraq for 15 months, Webster said there are really no differences between the division's first tour in Iraq and now. Regular communications with the 1st Cavalry Division have kept him in tune with what's happening in Baghdad.

"We've certainly watched the insurgency develop, and we've been watching that with the 1st Cavalry Division during the year as they've conducted their operations," Webster said "We understand it. We know that this enemy is a learning enemy. He's learning from us, and we are working to learn from him and to stay just ahead of his operation. And I think we are gaining the upper hand."

While some question how well the Iraqis are physically equipped to handle security tasks, Chiarelli said he saw no deficit for the counterinsurgency missions they are conducting. Though there are plans to improve their equipment, the Iraqi forces have advantages over the well-equipped U.S. forces.

He said that being able to work on the ground with the Iraqi people is the most effective way to operate in Baghdad. And that's where the Iraqi 40th Brigade excels.

"They are a well-trained force, they speak the language, they require no interpreters, they know the neighborhoods, and most importantly, they know the culture," Chiarelli said. "They are proving exceedingly well-equipped in many, many ways, to handle the situations we have in Baghdad today."

Webster added that there are plans in place to continue to improve the equipment the Iraqi army has, just as there are plans to improve their training. But, as the new Iraqi government transforms, the funding and acquisition of that equipment will transfer to the Iraqi government.

This does not mean, however, that the U.S. forces will simply leave the Iraqi forces on their own.

"We will not leave the side of these Iraqi soldiers until they're fully ready to take (security) over by themselves," Webster said.

This may take awhile, Chiarelli said, but it seems that the Iraqi security forces are working toward that goal. During the Jan. 30 elections, the two groups worked together to provide security for voters at the polls.

"What we're seeing is tremendous partnership between these Iraqi army battalions and the Iraqi police," he said. "And that is a very, very good sign. And I think the proof is in the job they did on election day. They did a magnificent job on election day."

This rotation brings about half of the 3rd ID back to Iraq for a second tour. The division is a "well-trained, fully reset" force that spent the last 15 months reorganizing and improving its equipment and force structure, Chiarelli said.

The transfer of authority is scheduled for Feb. 27.

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