Iraqis take over security operations in Kirkuk
Iraqi army troops have taken responsibility for a large section of Kirkuk province from American troops, marking the third time this year that a security handover has been undertaken in the province.
At a ceremony Friday, troops from the U.S. Army’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division transferred the lead in security operations to Iraqi army troops from the 2nd Brigade, 4th Iraqi Army Division. Previously, two battalions with a multi-ethnic mix of Arab, Kurdish and Turkomen troops had taken over security responsibilities, officials said, broadly mirroring the mix of population in the area.
Two more battalions were added to the fold on Friday, bringing the majority of the province’s territory under Iraqi responsibility, officials said.
“These fighting men have taken the battle to the enemy, and the enemy is shaken,” said Col. David R. Gray, commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, according to a U.S. military news release. The brigade has been in Kirkuk since last October.
“Today’s ceremony is a tribute to the hard work and dedication of each and every one of our Iraqi brothers in arms.”
In the past year, officials said, Iraqi army troops have conducted four brigade-level operations in Kirkuk, along with other joint patrols and smaller operations.
American troops will remain in the area to support the Iraqi units, as they have in other regions of Iraq, officials said.
Earlier this week, the commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey, said Iraqi troops were poised to take over security control in all areas of the country relatively soon.
“I don’t have a date, but I can see over the next 12 to 18 months, the Iraqi security forces progressing to a point where they can take on the security responsibilities for the country, with very little coalition support,” Casey said.