Iraqi security forces for the first time have taken control of Baghdad's security, a senior military official there said today.
Iraqi security forces took control yesterday of Operation Fard al-Qanun, or "Enforcing the Law," a plan designed by the Iraqi government and led by Iraqi army Lt. Gen. Abboud Gambar, said Army Brig. Gen. Joseph Anderson, Multinational Corps Iraq chief of staff.
U.S. forces are working in concert with Iraqi security forces to provide a 24-hour presence in the city, but Abboud and his staff now plan and execute the strategy from a new command post established in Adnan Palace in the Green Zone.
Anderson called establishing the Iraqi-led Baghdad operations command a "monumental feat," and said that the Iraqi security forces have come a long way in the past month as a command organization.
Both the Iraqi police and the Iraqi army are "very capable, competent, ... and the ability to plan and coordinate operations with coalition forces gets better every day," he said.
Coalition and Iraqi forces have built joint security stations and combat outposts throughout the city to begin securing the area.
This presence represents a critical shift away from operating out of forward operating bases and instead maintaining a constant presence in the city - a presence that is needed to hold areas security forces have cleared, Anderson said.
"In the past, we have been able to clear areas, but were not able to hold the areas and secure them over time," Anderson said. "We must demonstrate our ability to maintain the security in Baghdad over a long period of time."
Anderson said making it safe for local citizens is necessary to develop the economic and political processes needed to achieve stability in the area.
About 20,000 Iraqi security force troops will eventually operate in Baghdad, he said. Currently, the 6th and 9th Iraqi army divisions and two national police divisions patrol the city.
Up to 15 U.S. Army brigade combat teams will be stationed there. The U.S. Army's 2nd BCT, 82nd Airborne Division, and the 4th BCT, 1st Infantry Division, have recently moved into Baghdad, he said. It is expected that the full complement of U.S. troops will be on the ground by the end of May, Anderson said.
Anderson said that the increased presence already has resulted in as many as 20 fewer daily attacks on coalition forces and the local population. Still, he said, there are typically up to 90 attacks per day in Baghdad.
Iraqi citizens also are more willing to help coalition forces with the increased presence, Anderson said. This has led to recent large weapons caches found in the area.
Even with the operation's recent successes, Anderson acknowledged it will not be an easy road to a safe and secure Baghdad.