Building a Long-Term Strategic Partnership through Stability Operations

Article excerpt

Operation New Dawn

The U.S. presence in Iraq, now into its eighth consecutive year, is undergoing a significant transformation as emphasis shifts towards fostering a long-term strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq. Rather than disengaging from Iraq, the United States is shifting focus from a military-led to a civilian-led presence in order to transfer the skills and expertise that will enable Iraqis to unleash their country's great potential. Correspondingly, U.S. Forces-Iraq (USF-I) has conducted a change of mission, ending Operation Iraqi Freedom and commencing Operation New Dawn on September 1, 2010. As its name implies, Operation New Dawn marks the beginning of a new chapter in the U.S. military's endeavor in Iraq. Through the end of 2011, USF-I will focus on conducting stability operations to achieve our national goal of a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq.

Stability operations encompass the military component of our national strategy to address security threats spawned by the failure of nation-states to meet the basic needs and aspirations of their people. The goal of stability operations is to provide the foundations for enduring peace by securing the population, rebuilding government and economic institutions, providing essential services and restoring a sense of normalcy. For USF-I, stability operations are defined by three critical tasks: (1) advise, train, assist and equip the Iraqi security forces (ISF); (2) support provincial reconstruction teams, the United Nations and other nongovernmental organizations in their efforts to build civil capacity; and (3) conduct partnered counterterrorism operations and provide command-and-control and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance combat enablers to help the ISF maintain pressure on extremist networks. Guided by our bilateral agreements - the security' agreement and the strategic framework agreement - USF-I is enabling the Government of Iraq (GoI) to become a selfreliant strategic partner that contributes to peace and security in the region.

Since the ISF assumed control of security within the cities on June 30, 2009, overall security incidents in Iraq have continued to decline, reaching the lowest levels since 2004. All forms of violence^ - including improvised explosive devices (IEDs), indirect-fire attacks and civilian casualties - have decreased from 2009 levels. The significant improvement in the capabilities of the ISF, coupled with their improved public perception, paid great dividends during the March 2010 national elections, when record numbers of Iraqis exercised their right to vote. Through the period of uncertainty and vulnerability surrounding the elections, the ISF validated their role as an apolitical arm of the government, loyal to the Iraqi Constituticin and not to a single candidate or political party. With the elections behind it, Iraq is now poised for a peaceful transfer of power while the newly elected politicians work to build consensus on the nature of the new government.

The continued progress of the ISF and improvements in the security environment allowed USF-I to deliberately reduce our force structure to 50,000 servicemembers on September 1, as outlined by the President. During the "surge," the coalition force consisted of more than 170,000 personnel spread out over 600 bases. Since then, USF-I has withdrawn more than 120,000 servicemembers, returned more than 500 bases to the GoI, and retrograded more than 40,000 pieces of rolling stock wheeled vehicles and nearly 2 million pieces of non-rolling stock containerized equipment. Over the last two years, USF-I has quietly but deliberately conducted the largest redeployment of personnel and equipment while simultaneously conducting operations since the Vietnam War.

As we make the transition to stability operations, the most important change to the composition of our forces is the shift to advise-and-assist brigades (AABs). USF-I is currently organized into six AABs with an additional AAB headquarters element, which fall under three division headquarters covering northern, central and southern Iraq. …