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UK Defence Chief Praises Brit-Trained Iraqi Forces

Defence secretary praises Iraqi forces and their British training

Defence Secretary Des Browne is in Basra, Southern Iraq, today for an update on the progress of the Iraqi Security Forces and to see the situation for himself.

In the last six months, the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police have made great improvements under the guidance of 1st Battalion The Irish Guards. On 5th September Iraqi Forces took responsibility for security in Basra City and British troops officially handed over the Basra Palace base. Since then, the Iraqi Security Forces have proved effective. When tested by attacks, the Iraqis have responded well and quickly got the situation under control. Violence in Basra has declined further and Iraq's second largest city is relatively calm - attacks against UK forces have fallen by 90% since July 2007.

Mr Browne met the Irish Guards' commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Michael O'Dwyer MBE, to get his view on the progress of the Iraqi Security Forces being trained by his men.

Des Browne said:

"I am very grateful for the work that the Irish Guards have done in Iraq, training up the Iraqi Security Forces, and ensuring that increasingly, they are capable of taking responsibility for security in South-East Iraq.

"This work is vitally important and is helping to set the conditions necessary for Multi National Forces to hand over Basra to Provincial Iraqi Control at the end of this year.

"I have no doubt that this has been a difficult tour at times, but despite the challenges they have faced, The Irish Guards have performed their role with enormous professionalism and enthusiasm and they should be very proud of what they have achieved."

At the Iraqi Army's Divisional Training Centre, formerly Britain's Shaiba Logistics Base, South West of Basra City the Irish Guards are training Iraqi troops in complex tasks such as searching houses, conducting vehicle checkpoints, and more basic skills like how to shoot. In Baghdad two teams, each of four Irish Guards, are mentoring soldiers of the Iraqi Army's 10 Division. Normally based in Basra, 10 Division has made such good progress that elements of it have been deployed to Baghdad to assist in the US-led counter-insurgency operations there.

Lt Col Michael O'Dwyer MBE, Commanding Officer of 1st Battalion The Irish Guards, said:

"During our six months in Basra there has been a significant improvement in the Iraqi Army's capability and the effectiveness of their people. As the Iraqis have taken a greater role in operations and overall security responsibility, it has been satisfying to see the difference that my Battle Group and other British troops are making. Our monitoring, mentoring and training is helping give the Iraqis that ability to look after themselves."

Mr Browne also met Britain's senior commander in Southern Iraq, Major General Graham Binns, and other senior officers and officials. They discussed the next steps towards Iraq taking full responsibility for Basra Province, and the strategic position in Southern Iraq following the handover of Basra Palace and British troops' move into an overwatch role.

After a tough but enormously successful tour of duty the Irish Guards and other units of 1 Mechanised Brigade are due to return to the UK next month. During his visit, Mr Browne joined British troops for lunch to hear their experiences of Iraq and thank them personally for their achievements, their sacrifice, and the enormous professionalism of the entire Brigade.

The task in Southern Iraq will pass next month to 4 Mechanised Brigade, who will continue training and mentoring the Iraqi Security Forces and stand ready to assist if asked.


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