An Iraqi army battalion is set to assume control of security in and around the western border city of Sinjar, where 1st Armored Division troops have been deployed since leaving Germany late last fall.
The 3rd Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 3rd Iraqi Army Division will take responsibility for the area on May 3 in a ceremony with 1st Armored and other officials. Sinjar has experienced little violence lately, enjoying a commercial boom that includes tremendous amounts of construction, new homes and retail buildings.
Many residents of nearby Tal Afar — which was the site of a large battle last fall and was once controlled by insurgents — have come to Sinjar to escape the violence. The city and surrounding area have a population of roughly 65,000, and Sinjar and is on the verge of managing its own affairs with little U.S. help, officials said last month.
“Because the security situation out here is pretty good, we’re able to focus on transition from military to civil stuff,” Maj. Matthew Van Wagenen, the 1st Battalion, 37th Armor Regiment’s executive officer, said in an interview last month. “Hopefully the rest of Iraq will be like this soon.”
The Iraqi 3rd Battalion has completed several missions with U.S. forces, American military officers said in making the announcement. Many of those battalion-size missions have been planned independently of U.S. assistance.
In general, when an area of operations is handed to Iraqi troops, U.S. forces stay in the region as a security guarantee, but missions and day-to-day operations are undertaken independently by Iraqi forces.
The eventual exit strategy for U.S. forces relies on the ability of the Iraqi army and police to function on their own. That goal has been met with mixed results throughout the country.
In Sinjar, the 1st Armored Division troops have found themselves focused more on civics than combat.
The Friedberg, Germany-based 1-37 has focused on the transition from coalition occupation to local governance.
“You can see the light at the end of the tunnel here,” Lt. Col. V.J. Tedesco, the battalion commander, said last month.