Iraqi Army Begins Relieving U.S. Troops

Iraqi army takes 1st step toward relieving GIs (Chicago Tribune)

In a small but potentially momentous shift, the U.S. military has handed control of some of Baghdad’s most violent neighborhoods to the Iraqi army, a first step toward taking U.S. soldiers off the streets. The transfer has taken place gradually over the weeks since the Iraqi election and is now complete, leaving about 4,000 Iraqi soldiers with full authority over 10 Baghdad neighborhoods, U.S. and Iraqi officials say. They include notorious hot spots such as insurgent-infested Haifa Street, which has long been a no-go area for ordinary Iraqis, and the hard-line Sunni neighborhood of Adhamiya, another insurgent stronghold. “This means we do not have to be in place in those areas,” said Lt. Col. Clifford Kent, spokesman for the 3rd Infantry Division in Baghdad. “They are some tough areas, but the [Iraqi] brigade is well-trained and they’re mission-capable.”

U.S. advisers are embedded with the Iraqi units, and U.S. forces are on call to help out should they be needed, but the four battalions of the 40th Brigade that have been granted autonomy have full control over their operations, Iraqi and U.S. officials say. “These operations now are being planned and conducted 100 percent by the Iraqi forces,” said Gen. Mudhir Mawla, the commander of Iraqi forces in Baghdad.

Officials had intended for Iraqi security forces to begin taking over from the Americans this year. The transfer was accelerated after the success of January’s election, when U.S. soldiers deliberately hung back and left the job of securing polling sites to the Iraqis in order to avoid any impression of interference in the political process. It is widely acknowledged that the Iraqi security forces performed well above expectations, encouraging U.S. commanders to press ahead with the transfer of authority.


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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Jim Henley says:

    In all seriousness, do we think this momentous handover will work better than previous momentous handovers in Fallujah, Samarra and probably other places I’m forgetting?

  2. Denis says:

    In all seriousness, yes. Attacks against U.S. soldiers is dropping. At least February (post election) showed a marked drop. And Iraqiis are doing what they should, namely taking over security of their own country. There will be continued violence. That is a result of Hussein’s rule and their terrorist comrades. It will take time as a result to purge this evil. The U.S. took on a dirty job, but a necessary one. The guys fighting over there are to be commended for a job well done under extremely difficult circumstances. Bush should be commended for doing the right thing against much opposition, including so-called allies (who owe this country a lot) and the Democrats who never have proposed a credible plan themselves.

  3. zz says:

    All of those places were handed over to forces derived from the local population and in all cases had conflicted loyalties or could be compromised by threats against themselves or their families from the locally entrenched militants. In the areas in and around Baghdad, the insurgents are a lot weaker in terms of percentage supporting them. That plus the fact that troops protected the polling places and the large turnout in Baghdad despite the violence is a good sign and good motivation for Iraqi forces carrying their mission out and standing their ground.

  4. Jim Henley says:

    zz: Thanks for an answer that goes beyond bluster.