|By Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A fundamental shift will take place at the end of the
month in the mission of U.S. forces in Iraq, a Pentagon official said.
The change in mission from Operation Iraqi Freedom to Operation New Dawn
reflects the improvement in conditions in Iraq and will officially end
the U.S. combat mission in Iraq and change it to one of stability
operations, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.
Some 56,000 U.S. troops are now in Iraq, down from a high of 180,000.
The number will drop to 50,000 by the end of the month, Whitman said.
“It takes us from what has been a combat mission to a stability
operations mission,” he added. “It takes us from a military lead to a
Though the “advise and assist” mission does not change officially until
the end of the month, American brigades have been in place and
performing that mission for more than a year in southern Iraq and now
through almost all of the country.
“As a practical matter, we have now been conducting stability operations
for the last several months,” Whitman said.
Six U.S. Army brigades — plus support personnel — will work with Iraqi
security forces through the end of 2011, when all American troops will
be out of Iraq.
The units are the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Brigades of the 3rd Infantry
Division, the 3rd Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division and the 2nd
Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division. Soldiers with these units will be
advising, assisting, teaching and mentoring the Iraqi army and police in
a range of capabilities.
U.S. Air Force personnel will continue to help in training the Iraqi air
force, and Navy and Coast Guard personnel will continue to advise and
assist Iraq’s maritime forces.
“This is not like a light switch, where one day you are doing combat
operations and the next day you are doing stability operations,” Whitman
explained. “It has been a transition that has taken place gradually over
President Barack Obama has indicated that the mission officially will
change Sept. 1, and military forces and U.S. civilians in Iraq are
moving to reflect that.
While instances of violence have dropped dramatically in Iraq, dangers
still exist there.
U.S. forces always maintain the capabilities to defend themselves,
U.S. servicemembers will retain that right even after Sept. 1. American
“advise and assist” units will have the capabilities to come to the aid
of Iraqi security forces if called upon, he added.