Baghdad Receives Control of Iraq's Armed Forces

In a ceremony in Baghdad, the Iraqi government formally takes control of part of the armed forces from the U.S.-led coalition. American officials are calling it a major development, but they acknowledge that the Iraqi army is far from being capable of taking on insurgents, and worsening sectarian violence, on its own.

The change means the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki will be able to direct the movement and use of Iraqi troops. The handover of authority was rich in ceremony: Koranic verses, an honor cordon of white-gloved Iraqi soldiers, and hopeful speeches.

"Today marks another important milestone in the relentless progress of the Iraqi Armed Forces," U.S. Gen. George Casey said.

But the details of the handover didn't match the pomp.

Only one of the Iraqi Army's 10 divisions was handed over. That's the 8th division that is now operating just south of Baghdad. The remaining divisions are still being trained by the Americans. There is hope that some of the divisions will be ready by year's end.

The handover in authority includes Iraq's Air Force and Navy. But they have only a handful of helicopters, cargo planes and patrol boats.

U.S. Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli is the day-to-day ground commander in Iraq. After the ceremony he was asked how long it would take before the Iraqi forces could re-supply themselves and be truly independent.

"I can't give you a timetable," Chiarelli said. "It's not only creating the capabilities in the army, it's creating the capabilities in the government to provide the support. That's a critical piece."

The handover came on a bloody day in Baghdad. Nine explosions targeted Iraqi police. At least 25 were killed and dozens wounded. And in fighting outside the capital, two U.S. soldiers and a Marine were killed.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: