Coalition General Calls 2007 a “Year of Transition” in Iraq

By David Shelby
USINFO Staff Writer

Washington - The spokesman for Multi-National Force (MNF) - Iraq says 2007 will be a year of transition in which the Iraqi government will assume increasing responsibility for security operations.

“[T]he one significant difference occurring here is you're going to see the government of Iraq in the lead; you're going to see the Iraqi security forces, their chain of command, taking a much greater responsibility and role in the command and control of this operation,” General William Caldwell told reporters in Baghdad, Iraq, December 27.

He said security responsibilities in Najaf province were returned to the control of the provincial government December 20 as part of this transition strategy.  Najaf is the third province to return to local civilian control following al-Muthanna and Dhi Qar.

Caldwell said this transition policy would be part of the new Iraq strategy President Bush is expected to announce in early January 2007.

“Whatever shift in strategy the president decides upon will be based in part upon the awareness that although coalition forces can win every battle against al-Qaida in Iraq and extremist militant groups, we cannot win the peace alone. Ultimately, Iraqis have to step up and develop solutions to their country's problems,” he said.

Caldwell said the Iraqis are showing an increased willingness to confront the security problems plaguing their country.  The Iraqi security forces’ recent recruiting drive in al-Anbar province, Caldwell said, produced a record number of recruits, and he noted that tips from concerned citizens rose 66 percent in October and November.

“This would indicate to us that the Iraqi people are tired of the violence perpetrated upon them by terrorist and criminal elements, and they want to be part of the solution,” he said.

Caldwell said the Iraqi forces are becoming increasingly proficient but still suffer deficiencies in logistics and leadership.  He said the MNF continuously reassesses its training programs to ensure that it addresses these needs.

“Significant challenges do remain, and violence is likely to remain at unacceptably high levels in the very near term, but Iraqi forces are making progress to provide their own security and the Iraqi people are demonstrating great resolve to defeat these terrorists and criminals plaguing Iraq,” he said.

For more information on U.S. policies, see Iraq Update.