By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service
June 18, 2010 - U.S. investment and sacrifice in Iraq has paid off with fully capable Iraqi security forces and a paradigm shift toward law and order that will allow for a long-term relationship between the two countries, the U.S. Forces Iraq deputy commanding general for advising and training Iraqi forces said today."The investment and sacrifice we've made is creating real opportunities for a more stable and secure Iraq, and for a long-term relationship" with the United States, Army Lt. Gen. Michael D. Barbero told reporters during a Pentagon briefing.
Iraq security forces have made "dramatic" improvements, Barbero said, with insurgent attacks down 50 percent since Iraqi forces took the lead in security operations a year ago this month. Violence is down 90 percent since the height of the U.S. troop surge there, he said.
Still, security remains a concern, Barbero said, noting there were 11 attacks across Iraq yesterday, and two members of Iraqi security forces were killed.
But Iraq is in much better shape to deal with the attacks, the general said. The Iraqi army, navy and air force are the fastest-growing forces in the world, he said, and now comprise 248,000 servicemembers, including a growing noncommissioned officer corps. And, Iraqis now lead much of their own training, he added.
The Iraqi military is increasingly better-equipped, Barbero said. The first of 140 M1 tanks have begun arriving, and 65 tank crews have been trained. Iraq's air force has more than 100 aircraft and is growing toward 10,000 airmen, providing essential airlift and battlefield mobility. The navy has more than 50 vessels, having grown by 50 percent in the past year. The first of 15 new, U.S.-built patrol boats have begun arriving, and 50 Iraqi sailors are training in Louisiana to man the boats, he said.
The Iraqi army, with 238,000 soldiers, is well-trained in counterinsurgency operations and now is the best in the region as it becomes increasingly proficient in conventional warfare, Barbero said.
Some of the biggest improvements, the general said, are with the Iraqi national police, a force that now has 410,000 officers at the center of Iraq's paradigm shift toward law and order that is unique to the region. The shift includes requiring warrants for searches and arrests, basing convictions on scientific evidence rather than confessions, and maintaining a multiethnic police force.
"In tactical terms, the last 100 meters to seizing an objective is the most critical, and that is where we are now," Barbero said.
While much hard work remains, Barbero said his command's efforts "are on track to achieve our mission."
"Iraqi security forces will be ready on 1 September to take full responsibility for Iraq security," the general said. President Barack Obama has set a deadline for all U.S. combat forces to be out of Iraq by Aug. 31.