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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

21 August 2006

Iraqi Army To Take Full Control of Troop Division in September

Coalition will provide support only if Iraqi army requires it, U.S. general says

Washington – A significant shift in the Iraqi army’s command and control structure will occur September 3 when it will take full control of its 8th Army Division.

U.S. Army Brigadier General Dana Pittard, who is in charge of the Iraq Assistance Group, told reporters via videoconference August 21 that this is more than a symbolic development.  Any support that coalition units might offer after this transition first would have to be coordinated through the Iraqi army’s Iraqi Ground Forces Command (IGFC), he said.

The Iraq Assistance Group oversees the teams of coalition military and police advisers currently embedded with many units of the Iraqi security forces.  Pittard, who served as a combat commander in Iraq from 2003-2005, recently returned to Iraq to head the assistance group.

The 8th Iraqi Army Division will be the first to take this step of operating on its own, Pittard said, and it will establish the path for the rest of Iraq’s army to follow.  It is a significant development, he said, because the army unit no longer will be under coalition tactical control.  Sustainment assistance still will be readily available from coalition forces if needed, but following the transition, all military orders will be issued by the IGFC.

This is all part of the overall U.S. military mission to help stabilize Iraq, Pittard said, and to “set the conditions for the Iraqi people and the government to be successful.”

U.S. military advisers, at this stage, are not pushing Iraqi army units to fight because they already are doing that very well, he said.

Pittard suggested that much of the Iraqi army will achieve a high state of responsibility and readiness by the end of 2006.  Still, reduction of U.S. forces will depend on the operational situation in December, he said.  Even after some U.S. units depart Iraq, some embedded military advisers might be left behind, according to his assessment.

Pittard also was asked about ongoing problems with private Iraqi militia forces.  Some 20 different militias are being tracked in Baghdad alone, he said, “and any illegal armed group will be disarmed” as part of a new capital security plan.

Pressed about the problem of divided loyalties within the ranks of the police, Pittard said the Interior Ministry already has dismissed some police officers for their ties to militias.  The ministry is doing its best, he said, to clean up the situation and U.S. officers are supporting that endeavor on a broad scale.  (See related article.)

Instituting a regionalization plan for Iraq’s national police, he said, must wait until there is greater stability in Baghdad.  Pittard also said shortages of officers will be addressed in the coming year.

Plans for Iraqi national police units are unfolding in two key phases.  There is an initial inspection planned of each police battalion by the Ministry of Interior, with coalition support, that is to be completed by October 1 when officers will be issued new blue uniforms.  This will be followed by nearly a month of training for eight national police brigades outside the capital. Those completing the training will be authorized to wear another new uniform.  (See related article.)

For additional information, see Iraq Update.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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