As of today, U.S. combat forces will turn over the security of cities to Iraqi security forces, and begin a period where our primary security role is one of training, mentoring and advising the ISF," said Army Maj. Gen. Rick Nash, Multinational Division South commander. "Today's ISF is capable, ready and dedicated to keeping the people of Iraq safe."
Nash praised the dedication of the Iraqi security forces as well as the proficiency of U.S. and coalition forces, and attributed the successful implementation of the security agreement to their actions.
"Iraq's successes and significantly improved security are a testament of the ISF's progress and its dedication to Iraq's sovereignty," Nash said. "The Iraqis have made strides in their ability to protect their citizens, and our brave soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are doing a great job in helping them build both their security forces and their civil capacity."
Though U.S. and coalition forces no longer will inhabit Iraqi cities, they will continue to support the Iraqi security forces within the parameters of the security agreement, Nash said.
"Leaving the cities does not mean that we are backing off," he said. "Instead, it indicates our confidence in the Iraqis to safeguard their own citizens. Likewise, the security agreement is a tangible, positive sign of a mature relationship between two sovereign nations."
In accordance with agreement, U.S. forces will withdraw from all Iraqi territory by Dec. 31, 2011. Today will be remembered as a significant step toward the realization of that objective, Nash noted.
"So, on this important day of transition in Iraq, our two nations move forward together as friends, with the shared goal of the safety and security of the Iraqi people," he said. "I am very encouraged about the future success of Iraq."
Lankford serves with Multinational Division South.