By Sgt. Curt Cashour, USA
Dec. 15, 2006 – Nearly 300 people gathered outside Al Faw Palace here yesterday for a ceremony that marked the transfer of authority over Multinational Corps Iraq, which includes more than 160,000 U.S. and coalition troops, from the U.S. Army's 5th Corps to 3rd Corps.
Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commander of Multinational Force Iraq and the top U.S. commander in the country, lauded the achievements of the Germany-based Task Force Victory, which is commanded by Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli. In the nearly 11 months since they assumed the MNCI mission, Chiarelli and his troops oversaw the seating of Iraq's first democratically elected government and watched the Iraqi government's first democratically elected prime minister take office, and the corps' efforts led to the killing of al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Casey said.
"Violence and progress (co-)exist in Iraq. When you look back over the course of a year, you can really marvel at the progress," Casey said.
While TF Victory was in charge of the MNCI mission, Iraqi security forces continued to make progress toward self-sufficiency, increasing the number of divisions taking the lead in combat operations, Chiarelli said. He added that the coalition must continue to make strides to build a stable Iraq. "We must not let apathy, selfishness or indifference stray us from the course," he said.
The task of building on the progress made by TF Victory is now in the hands of Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, new MNCI commander, and the soldiers of 3rd Corps, a unit based at Fort Hood, Texas.
The soldiers of 3rd Corps are committed to stabilizing the security situation in Iraq, reducing sectarian violence and strengthening the Iraqi government and its security institutions, Odierno said.
"We will succeed," he said, adding that the contributions of Iraqis have been vital to the efforts thus far.
"The Iraqis have shown an incredible resiliency to succeed, despite the dangers they have endured," Odierno said.
During a news conference after the ceremony, Odierno said the 3rd Corps strategy hinges on a combination of diplomatic, economic and military options to quell the violence and strengthen the Iraqi government.
On the diplomatic side, Odierno said he will work closely with the Iraqi government to help build strategies for dealing with the country's militias, policies regarding de-Baathification of the government and guiding the country toward provincial elections.
Topping the list of economic challenges is getting Iraqis back to work, he said. But even with diplomatic and economic progress, extremists will still be a threat and will be dealt with militarily, Odierno said.
Odierno also noted that a large portion of the 3rd Corps staff are serving in Iraq for the second or third time, a fact that will contribute to the unit's effectiveness. "We have a personal stake in the mission here," he said.
Odierno and the 3rd Corps are scheduled to hold the MNCI reins for about one year.
(Army Sgt. Curt Cashour is assigned to Multinational Corps Iraq Public Affairs.)
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