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Iraqi security forces gaining ground

By Sgt. Ken Hall

BAGHDAD (Army News Service, April 3, 2006) – The Iraqi army has proven that they're trained and capable of protecting the Iraqi people, and their nation recognizes that, according to Multinational Division – Baghdad Commander Maj. Gen. James Thurman in a teleconference with the Pentagon press corps March 31.

Thurman assumed command of MND-B on January 7, 2006. He leads Coalition operations, which include U.S. forces and those from the Republic of Georgia, Macedonia, Estonia and about 33,000 Iraqi security forces.

As the 4th Infantry division arrives at the 90-day mark in theater, Thurman pointed out key strategies and successes gained to date.

“The Iraqi security force and Multinational Division-Baghdad are succeeding in their mission,” he said. “We are setting the conditions for stability and security in Baghdad ... and this is a decisive period in the campaign as Iraq transitions to self-governance.”

Speaking from Baghdad, Thurman noted that his troops are performing like champions in one of the most complex and demanding environments he has have seen.

“As the operation has progressed, our task organization has changed,” said Thurman. “We currently have a little over 29,000 U.S. and Coalition soldiers, approximately 32,000 Iraqi army, Iraqi national police and Iraqi police that are integrated into our formation with our coalition partners. This makes the mission truly a joint and combined effort.

“Furthermore, we have increased the size of our battle space to approximately 17,000 square miles by adding three additional provinces in addition to Baghdad, and we have the Babil province, Karbala and Najaf. That's roughly the size of the state of West Virginia.

“The Iraqi security forces' assumption of battle space and ability to protect their citizens has made that possible,” he said.

ISF steps up pace

As the Iraqi security forces grow in numbers, U.S. and Coalition forces are increasingly taking secondary roles in operations to secure Iraq’s future stability.

“The Iraqi security forces are in the lead,” elaborated Thurman. “Within Multinational Division-Baghdad, seven Iraqi brigades and 18 out of 29 battalions now own battle space. Only three more brigades, consisting of 11 battalions, remain to assume battle space.

“Likewise, the Iraqi police are also poised to assume those civil law enforcement duties and are doing so,” he said. “The police academies are training new recruits every day as more citizens volunteer to serve and protect the Iraqi people.”

Iraqi tips track terrorists

“The Iraqi people further demonstrate their growing trust and confidence by the use of the national tip hotline,” added Thurman. “Over 3,000 tips have been received, and more than 2,500 of those tips have led to successful operations.”

Thurman said terrorists are failing. “Iraqi and Coalition forces continue to disrupt multiple terrorist cells that indiscriminately attack civilians, Iraqi security forces and the Coalition.”

Thurman suggested that much of the violence in Iraq can be attributed to desperate acts of terrorism designed to derail the formation of Iraq's national unity government.

“While sectarian violence does exist, much of the violence is due to criminal activity that existed prior to the Samarra bombing,” he said. “Iraqi forces are succeeding, they're in the lead, and they are gaining capability every day.”

Thurman noted U.S. and Coalition soldiers remain committed to the fight and assisting the Iraqis. “We know what is at stake, and we will defeat the terrorists,“ he said. “Our nation can take pride today in the selfless service, the professionalism and the courage of the great men and women that I have the honor and privilege to serve with every day.”

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