Iraqi Political Factors Improve, Drawdown Begins
By Merle D. Kellerhals Jr.
USINFO Staff Writer
Iraqi Political, Economic Factors Improve, Troop Drawdown Begins
Security conditions have improved enough in Iraq that the United States November 27 began the drawdown of U.S. combat troops from Diyala province. "The redeployment without replacement reflects overall improved security within Iraq, as well as improved capabilities of the Iraqi security forces and the emergence of concerned local citizens," Navy Rear Admiral Gregory Smith said.
It represents the first drawdown of combat forces since the surge of additional troops began earlier in 2007, and these forces will not be replaced, Smith said during a November 24 Multi-National Force-Iraq briefing in Baghdad.
Army Colonel David Sutherland of the 1st Cavalry Division said the drawdown was made possible because of improved economic factors and declining tribal conflicts in the province.
Sutherland said coalition forces, Iraqi security forces and the provincial government have worked diligently over the past 14 months to bring stability and services to Diyala province. The province had been plagued by rampant corruption, with leaders placing their ambitions and needs ahead of the needs of their constituency, he said. There was a lack of essential services for food, water, electricity and fuel, and residents viewed Iraqi security forces as being sectarian, he added. In addition, he said, tribal conflicts further divided the population.
"Today, the operational environment is drastically improving," Sutherland said. Acts of violence have dropped in the past year by 50 percent, he added.
"The surge enabled the coalition and Iraqi security forces to dominate the terrain and secure the population. It also helped the government to function properly and begin focusing on reconstruction and essential services," Sutherland said.
Army General David Petraeus, overall commander of coalition forces in Iraq, testified before Congress in September that any drawdown of forces before Iraq was ready would be imprudent, saying the situation in Iraq was complex and difficult.
Smith said current conditions allow for the withdrawal of the first unit. "If conditions continue to permit, a total of five brigade combat teams will be redeployed over the next eight months," he said.
By June 2008, the United States plans initially to withdraw about 5,000 troops from the current level of 162,000 troops, Smith said.