Note: This article is from the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph:
(by David Blair, Telegraph.co.uk) – The dramatic improvement in Iraq’s security was underlined with the handover to local forces of Babil province, south of Baghdad and once at the epicentre of the insurgency when attacks against coalition forces and Iraqi civilians were daily occurrences. [Babil, the location of the ancient ruins of Babylon, was once known as the “Triangle of Death.” Babil is province #10 on the map of Iraq. See “Resources” below for a list of the remaining provinces.]
In February 2005, Babil saw one of the deadliest incidents since the US-led coalition in Iraq when a suicide attack in the town of Hilla killed at least 115 men as they [waited in line] to join the new army.
That force, trained by US and British troops, will now formally take responsibility for Babil’s security. Of Iraq’s 18 provinces, 12 are now under the direct security control of the Baghdad government. Coalition forces no longer patrol the streets in these provinces and all routine tasks are performed by Iraqi personnel. [A 13th province, Wasit, is expected to revert to Iraqi authority at the end of this month and Salaheddin may not be far behind.]
“Just a year ago this province used to see well over 20 attacks per week and today attacks are down by 80 per cent. This is truly remarkable,” said [Lt.] General Lloyd Austin, the deputy commander of US forces in Iraq, at the handover ceremony in Hilla.
The fall in violence coincided with the [surge] of thousands of extra US troops deployed in Iraq.
U.S. and Iraqi authorities credit the Sons of Iraq security groups which emerged last year with playing a critical role in securing communities from terrorist infiltration and allowing Americans to take a back seat.
“They have successfully expelled al Qaeda from the city by securing their neighborhoods,” said Capt. Josh Kurtzman, a company commander with the 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division in Samarra [in Salaheddin province].
But America and Iraq are now trying to reach agreement over the future presence of US and coalition forces in the country. The United Nations mandate allowing their deployment expires on Dec 31.
America wants to conclude a “Status of Forces Agreement” (SOFA) allowing its troops to stay beyond this deadline. But Iraq wants guarantees that any US forces on its territory will not attack its powerful neighbour, Iran.
Britain is negotiating a separate SOFA for its forces. Bill Rammell, the Foreign Office minister responsible for the Middle East, said that British troops would have a “fundamental change of role next year”. Instead of a possible combat role, training Iraqi forces will be their sole responsibility.
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1. What is the latest indication that security in Iraq is improving?
2. With the handover of Babil, how many of Iraq’s 18 provinces are now under the direct security control of the Baghdad government?
3. What two events are credited for the fall in violence in Babil?
4. Define “mandate” and “deployment” as used in paragraph 8.
5. a) What would a SOFA authorize the U.S. military to do?
b) What guarantee does the Iraqi government want the U.S. to make before agreeing to a SOFA?
6. Are you inspired by this article? Explain your answer.
Read more about progress being made in Iraq at the Multi-National Force website mnf-iraq.com.
Read about “Status of Forces Agreements” at globalsecurity.org.
Iraq is divided into 18 governorates or provinces. (In Iraqi government documents, the term “governorate” is preferred.)
The constitutionally recognized Kurdistan Autonomous Region includes parts of a number of northern provinces, and is largely self-governing in internal affairs.