The 4th Iraqi Army Division has become the second unit controlled by the Iraqi Ground Force Command, U.S. military officials said Wednesday.

In a ceremony this week, the 4th Division also assumed the lead for security operations in Salah ad Din province from the U.S. Army’s freshly arrived 25th Infantry Division.

Until earlier this month, all Iraqi forces had fallen under the operational control of the U.S. command in Baghdad. The Iraqi Ground Force Command is gradually taking control of more Iraqi units.

“This event shows significant progress in the building of the Iraqi armed forces’ capabilities and forms the basis for a joint force capable of protecting its people and preserving peace,” Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, the main U.S. spokesman in Iraq, was quoted as saying.

U.S. officials have said that, by the end of September, six Iraqi army divisions, some 30 Iraqi brigades and 90 Iraqi battalions will be “in the lead” in security operations. In most of those cases, U.S. troops remain in the areas with the Iraqi troops, providing logistical and air support while conducting ground operations with them.

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