By Gerry J. Gilmore
Dec. 1, 2006 – The U.S. military is increasing the number of embedded trainers assisting Iraqi army and police units to become more proficient and independent, the senior U.S. military officer overseeing operations in northern Iraq said today. "We intend to enlarge the size of our mobile (Iraqi army) training teams and also our police training teams, and also the teams that we have working with the border security forces along the Syria and Iranian border," Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon said during a briefing via satellite with Pentagon reporters.
He said the Iraqi forces are allies. "We will stand by them throughout this transition period," Mixon said.
Mixon commands Multinational Division North and the 25th Infantry Division. The two-star general's area of responsibility covers six Iraqi provinces in northern Iraq that include the cities of Kirkuk, Balad, Tikrit, Mosul and Samarra. Mixon said his organization's main mission is to train and partner with Iraqi soldiers and police to provide security for the 11 million Iraqi people residing within his area.
As Iraqi forces assume a larger security role, Mixon said he sees a chance to reduce the amount of U.S. combat forces on the ground in northern Iraq. However, he cautioned, this likely won't occur overnight. He noted that U.S. forces spent about 10 years setting the stage in Bosnia-Herzegovina before local security elements could take over and be successful.
"We need to allow the Iraqis the same time to get their security forces on the ground, to get their government working, and then have a gradual withdrawal of American security forces, but continue to partner with them over the long term," Mixon said.
He said the Iraqi army and police units in northern Iraq continue to improve
"The Iraqi army and its brave soldiers have sacrificed immensely. But, through this sacrifice and their commitment to their country, they have become stronger and more capable of conducting operations on their own," Mixon said.
The Iraqi 3rd Division, which today officially took over security duties in western Nineveh province, conducted more than 400 military missions without U.S. or other coalition support during November, Mixon said. Those operations included foot patrols, reconnaissance and raids. The Iraqi soldiers successfully detained terrorists and foreign fighters and confiscated stockpiles of enemy munitions and weapons, he said.
Developing a capable and credible Iraqi police service is equally important to improving the security situation in northern Iraq, Mixon said. Police provide the security backbone for Iraqi society, protect Iraqi citizens each day and enforce the rule of law, he said.
"Because of this and the fact that the Iraqi army has made significant progress, Task Force Lightning has made training and partnering with Iraqi police a top priority," Mixon said.
He said "marked improvements" have been observed in Iraqi police operations in northern Iraq. More than 37,000 police will have been trained for service in northern Iraq by the end of December, he said.
Yet, Mixon said, the actions of Iraqi police are more important than their numbers. Not long ago, some Iraqi police in his area abandoned their posts when threatened by the enemy, he said. "Today, the police are much stronger and confident," Mixon said.
For example, Iraqi police didn't back down when dozens of al Qaeda operatives launched a series of attacks in Mosul in November. "The Iraqi police held their ground, gained the initiative and captured over 70 of these insurgents," Mixon said.
Article sponsored by criminal justice online; and police officers and military personnel who have become writers.