By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
July 27, 2007 - Insurgent attacks in Iraq's Ninewah province have dropped significantly, and if the trend continues, fewer U.S. troops will be needed in the region, an Army commander in the area said today. A sign of the improved security situation in the province is the fact that the province -- which includes Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city -- will transfer to Iraqi provincial control sometime next month, said Army Col. Stephen Twitty, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division's 4th Brigade, during a briefing with Pentagon reporters via telephone.
The Ninewah provincial government has made great strides and can stand on its own with minimal help, Twitty said. "We have a very mature provincial government here," he said.
The coalition provincial reconstruction team in Mosul and the brigade staff will continue to coach and mentor the provincial government. "In nine months I have seen this government mature, so they will be able to operate pretty much independently and run the provincial government pretty much independently," Twitty said.
On the security side, the two Iraqi divisions in the province are already under the command of Iraqi Ground Forces Command. "We still continue to see a need for the (provincial reconstruction team) to be here and will probably see a need for some type of coalition forces up here," Twitty said. "That may or may not be a robust force like I have, and it's going to be based on the security situation here."
He said the security situation is showing great promise. When his brigade moved into the area in December, there were between 15 and 18 attacks per day. Today, that number is down to between seven and nine. "But we must not call victory yet, and we must continue to look at the situation up here," he said.
He said he will look at the possibility of reducing coalition forces in the province.
About 19,000 Iraqi police and 20,000 Iraqi army soldiers are in Nineveh and are taking on the job of fighting and defeating terrorism, Twitty said. He described an example of Iraqis shouldering the burden that occurred May 16, when terrorists launched a car-bomb offensive. "The Iraqi security forces stood their ground and destroyed the majority of the (car bombs) ... so they could not reach their final destination, decisively defeating the attack," he said.
Iraqi security forces have "the will, the personnel and most of the equipment to fight," but still face challenges, the colonel acknowledged. Logistics, medical support, aviation support, and engineer expertise and equipment are shortfalls. "These are the areas that the Iraqi security forces must develop and that the Iraqi government must provide for their forces," Twitty said.
The Iraqi forces will continue to grow; Iraqi government plans call for another 3,000 policemen and standing up three new Iraqi army battalions to augment the current forces, Twitty said. "These additional forces will solidify the current effort in the province," he said.
The terrorists have reacted to the success with confusion. "The insurgents have been plagued with infighting amongst several groups of the Islamic State of Iraq, and it continues to attempt to influence operations here in Nineveh," Twitty said. "This infighting caused decreased effectiveness of insurgent attacks in June. This month, insurgent forces received little to no financial and logistics support due to the strong Iraqi police, Iraqi army and coalition force presence and operations. These operations have resulted in the seizure of 11 caches and the capture of several insurgent leaders."
The improved security has allowed coalition and Iraqi officials to concentrate on infrastructure improvements and strengthening the local government.