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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)




Coalition relinquishes control of Baghdad Airport

By Spc. Crista M. Birmingham

BAGHDAD INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, Iraq (Army News Service, Sept. 7, 2004) - The Bradley armored fighting vehicles rolled away from the gate Aug. 25, signifying a final transition of control from Coalition forces to the government of Iraq at Baghdad International Airport.

"Once the tanks roll away, the airport belongs to the government of Iraq," Col. Chuck Betack, chief of maneuvers, Multi-National Force - Iraq, said. Betack was on site to witness the final changeover. "The transfer is done. The airport now belongs to the Iraqi government, with the exception of the small pieces of the airport they are allowing us to occupy."

The three-month process started June 15, with a turn-over of the air traffic control tower, and checkpoints, to a final exchange of the main gate. Prior to the exchange, the airport was controlled completely by the Coalition, Betack said, and therefore, very limited in commercial traffic. The only flights at BIAP were military and charter.]

"This turnover is the first step towards re-establishing an air international hub back into Iraq," Betack said. "Now the airport belongs to the Iraqis, so you'll see more forms of transportation, with the Iraqis trying to set up their own commercial airlines at this time, so it will be a great morale boost for the entire economy, as well as for its people."

"This allows them to become a prominent nation once again, to get back into the proper levels of commerce, trade, and international travel," he said.

Gate security is being run by Global Security, an Iraqi-hired company that does not train with the Coalition.

"The training of Global Security employees is separate by that organization," Betack said. "There was a security assessment made however, and all security recommendations have been addressed."

Deployed military need not worry about getting home, officials said, since a small portion of the airport has been held for military flights.

"We have an agreement with the Ministry of Transportation to allow us to occupy a portion of the airport to allow us to bring in military aircraft," Betack said. "We have a security perimeter around the airport by coalition forces, and the Iraqi government has hired a private security firm to put checkpoints and security on the airport."

(Editor's note: Spc. Crista M. Birmingham serves with Multi-National Corps - Iraq Public Affairs.)

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