By Navy Seaman William Selby
Special to American Forces Press Service
July 25, 2008 - An Iraqi organization tasked with consolidating and coordinating that country's counterterrorism effort is now capable of conducting unilateral missions, a U.S. military official said yesterday. "[The Iraqi National Counterterrorism Force's] primary mission is to synchronize and focus all elements of Iraqi national power to defeat terrorism here in Iraq," U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Simeon Trombitas, director of the Iraqi National Counterterrorism Force Transition Team, told online journalist and bloggers.
The Iraqi unit was formed in 2003 and has since been trained by U.S. Special Forces soldiers, Trombitas said.
While U.S. forces still train with the specialized Iraqi force and conduct missions with the Iraqis, they're now capable of running their own missions with limited U.S. help, he said.
"They're comfortable, at this point in time, doing unilateral operations, even without some of our enablers," Trombitas explained. "I think that they're well on the road to conducting the majority of their operations."
Trombitas attributed the Iraqis' capability to the high level of training they receive from U.S. Special Forces soldiers.
"They are trained to a high level," Trombitas said. "Our Special Forces have a high level of confidence in them. They never hesitate to run a mission with each other, and I think that speaks highly of their capability and our guys' trust in them."
The Iraqi counterterrorism force's demanding selection process is similar to that of U.S. Army Special Forces, he said.
"Those things that we expect of our Rangers and Special Forces are the type of things we train [the Iraqis] in," Trombitas said.
The Iraqi National Counterterrorism Force headquarters is located in Baghdad, but the organization's leaders are planning to expand capabilities by moving to four other locations throughout the country. The cities include Mosul, Basra, Asad, and Diyala.
"These capabilities will allow us to plan, execute, synchronize air assault operations on multiple objectives, and give us the ability to infiltrate, ex-filtrate, and have casualty evacuation," Trombitas said.
Right now, there are four operational battalions, a training battalion, and a support battalion. Trombitas stressed that, while there are no plans for any more battalions, there is a possibility that leaders will split the headquarters due to the size of the battalions.
As a result of the long presence U.S. forces have had in Iraq, Trombitas said he can envision working with Iraqi National Counterterrorism Force troops in the future on other operations.
"Right now there is a battalion of Salvadorians in combat here in Iraq, ... and they're here due to our long presence in working with them," he said. "I foresee that in the future of Iraq."
He also lauded the U.S. forces who had a hand in training the Iraqi units. "Our Special Forces are the best in the world, and I think they've exemplified that," Trombitas said. "I'm just awful proud of our effort and theirs in conducting counterterrorism operations."
(Navy Seaman William Selby works for the New Media directorate of the Defense Media Activity)