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The Iraqi army took another step toward doing things themselves when the 1st Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 3rd Iraqi Army Division was given the formal go-ahead to lead security operations for the city of Tal Afar.

The 1st Battalion assumed the lead role in a ceremony on Saturday at Fort Tal Afar. With the ceremony, all Iraqi army battalions in the city have taken the lead in security operations, according to a release from Multi-National Corps-Iraq.

The brigade’s 2nd and 3rd battalions were put “in the lead” earlier this summer, according to Lt. Col. Edward Loomis, a spokesman for the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division.

Iraqi army units lead security operations when they are deemed ready to conduct operations independently of coalition forces, he said in an e-mail on Monday.

Iraqi units like the 1st Battalion may still receive U.S. assistance with things like logistics and fire support, he said.

Iraqi forces in the city recently played a part in Operation “Duke Storm,” aiding U.S. forces in cordoning off parts of Tal Afar and rounding up suspected insurgents in April. The roundup followed several weeks of heightened attacks in the area.

Tal Afar has been a mix of successes and setbacks during the war. American soldiers recaptured the city during a pitched battle in September, and it has since become a symbol of the “Clear, Hold and Build” strategy.

While touted as a model of success in Iraq, Tal Afar remains dangerous. Over the weekend, five U.S. soldiers were injured in a roadside bomb attack while on patrol in the city, according to media reports.

The city’s successes were repeatedly touted by President Bush this spring, when he said Tal Afar was a “free city that gives reason for hope for a free Iraq.”

Some U.S. commanders on the ground have expressed concern that the president’s references to Tal Afar may in fact make it more of a target for insurgents.

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