WASHINGTON, July 7, 2006 - Coalition troops operating in Iraq's Muthanna province will soon transfer security responsibilities to Iraqi police, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman said today in Baghdad.
When coalition forces leave Muthanna sometime next week, the province will become the first of Iraq's 18 provinces to be responsible for its own security, Air Force Brig. Gen. Kurt A. Cichowski told Pentagon reporters during a video teleconference.
Yet, the transfer of security doesn't have any bearing on the numbers of U.S. and coalition troops, Cichowski said. About 127,000 U.S. troops are in Iraq.
"It's important to understand that troop reductions and the transfer of Iraqi security control are mutually exclusive," the general said. "While they are related in the end, the security-force transfer is the taking over of the policing functions within the province," and has no relation to the level of military forces in Iraq.
Nonetheless, "the transfer of security responsibility clearly demonstrates an Iraqi success and signifies a tangible beginning of a brand-new phase in the history of this nation," Cichowski, the deputy chief of staff for strategy, plans and assessment for Multinational Force Iraq, said.
On June 19, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced that all Japanese, British and Australian troops deployed within Muthanna province would be withdrawn. The 600-member Japanese contingent began redeploying today.
The turnover was effected by assessments made by the coalition ground commander and the provincial governor, as well as input from a decision-making body called the Joint Committee to Transfer Security Responsibility. Cichowski and Iraq's deputy national security adviser are co-chairs on the committee.
The JCTSR uses a four-point assessment formula, Cichowski said, to gauge whether provincial police are up to the job of providing security. They assess:
- The existing threat level within a province
- The status of Iraqi security forces within a province, particularly its police;
- The relationship between multinational and Iraqi security forces in the province, and;
- The overall ability of the province to govern itself.
The Iraqi prime minister, the general said, has final say whether or not a province can provide its own security.
"Muthanna had met the agreed-upon conditions" necessary so it could assume full security responsibilities, Cichowski said.
Necessary arrangements for the security transfer of Muthanna province, which is located in southern Iraq, are nearly complete, Cichowski said.
"The prime minister has stated that it will happen," the general said. "We know that it will happen in the very, very near future. The last final details are being worked out."
Coalition forces will continue to assist the Iraqi government in achieving the mutual goal of a free and self-reliant Iraq, Cichowski said.