BAGHDAD — The United States has relayed responsibility to an Iraq Army brigade for
operations in the Salah Eddin province. The province contains vital
industries as well as strongholds of Al Qaida and the former
Saddam Hussein regime.
On April 1, the 1st Brigade, 4th Iraq Army Division began the first
phase of assuming responsibility for security operations in Salah Eddin. The
Iraqi brigade has been partnered with the U.S. Army's 3rd Brigade Combat
Team, 101st Airborne Division, Middle East Newsline reported.
"Yesterday, coalition Forces were responsible for conducting all the
operations in partnership with the Iraqi forces," U.S. Army Maj. Robert
Bertrand, 3rd BCT military transition team leader, said. "Today, the Iraqi
forces are in the lead."
Officials said the Iraqi military and police contain 244,000 members.
They said nearly 130 army battalions have been trained.
In November 2005, Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff, said, more Iraqi units than coalition forces participated in
company-sized operations. Pace said that trend has continued.
"Today, 83 percent of all operations are led solely by Iraqis or Iraqis
and coalition forces, with the other 17 percent being coalition-only
[operations]," Pace said on April 4 in Washington.
Salah Eddin contains Tikrit, regarded as the leading stronghold of the
Saddam insurgency. Another city in the province is Samara, an Al Qaida
stronghold and long resistant to the post-Saddam government.
Officials said that over the last six months Iraqi and coalition forces
have helped quell violence in the Tikrit area. They said the Iraqi brigade
has already assumed responsibility for Samara and Tikrit as well as other
The Iraqi brigade has been training for the mission to take over Salah
Eddin since December 2005. Officials said two of the brigade's five
battalions have been assigned their own battle space.
The remaining three Iraqi battalions were scheduled to assume security
responsibility for the towns of Balad and Bayiji in the summer of 2006.
Officials said the Iraqi brigade would direct battalions as well as gather
intelligence, plan and execute missions.
"They are planning the operations," Bertrand said. "They are gathering
the intelligence that is driving the maneuvers. They are going out and
seeking and attacking the insurgency."
The U.S. Army's 3rd BCT intends to continue support for the Iraqi
security forces in Salah Eddin. Officials said the United States would
contribute helicopters, weapons and personnel for major missions.
Over the next few months, officials said, the United States would hand
over several forward operating bases in Salah Eddin to the Iraqi military.
They said the bases would be used for training and the launch of missions.