RAMADI, Iraq --
The governor and the commanding general of all the Iraqi Security Forces for al-Anbar took full control and responsibility for security from coalition forces, which has loosened control of the once deadly province.
The Iraqi leaders signed the Command and Control Memorandum of Understanding in a ceremony at the Anbar Governance Center here Aug. 26, proof that progress for a safe and secure al-Anbar is moving forward for the people of the region and Iraq.
“Today I, my province and its Army commander, Maj. Gen. Murthi Mush’hen Almhalawi, who led its troops to victory against al-Qaeda, are happy to announce that we will join together to protect and serve Anbar,” said Gov. Ma’amoon Sami Rashim Alawi, al-Anbar’s provincial governor.
“We will receive its security responsibilities from the friendly forces,” said Gov. Ma’amoon before signing the document.
Murthi, who now oversees the Army, Police and Border Enforcement for the province at the Anbar Operation Command in Ramadi, has a full measure of respect for his position and the security of the province.
“Carrying Anbar’s security responsibility is an honor and one that I have been charged with and will protect, and we will fiercely protect the lives of our citizens. We will sacrifice all we have for the well-being of our elders, youths, men and women,” Murthi said.
“This was really a red-letter day for the province and the United States, because it is the first step in completely turning over responsibility to the local officials,” said Maj. Gen. John F. Kelly, commanding general of Multi National Force -West.
This was a historic day because the Army, Police and the civil government are working together in unison to provide security for the people of Anbar, said Col. Danny Bubp, Governor Ma’amoon’s military liaison officer said.
When the war began in 2003, a dynamic change took place that saw a dangerous dictator in Saddom Hussein be removed from power. The region was plunged into chaos by al-Qaeda and the insurgency that attempted to thwart peace and democracy. Now there is evidence of a democracy at works here in Anbar province. “We are seeing it at its very best,” said Bubp.
“When we talk about a historic day, certainly this will go down as the day that marks the change from Coalition forces turning control of security back to the Anbaris, Iraqi, and the new government,” Bubp said.
Safety and security of the province were keys to the allowing this change in authority to happen.
None of the progress could have happened if the insurgents, al-Qaeda, and terrorist had not been dealt with, Bubp said. “Coalition forces have been working together with the Iraqi Army and the Iraqi Police, training them and developing them. Now they are using their own intelligence sources to work with Coalition forces against the insurgence and terrorists.”
This is something brand new to the Iraqis, because under the former régime there was no civil authority - there was just Saddom and his military controlling everything.
“Now we’ve got the governor of Anbar province, the Provincial Council, the elected officials and representatives of the people working with the military and Iraqi Police, all working in unison toward protecting the populace,” Bubp said.
“We wouldn’t be here today signing this MOU as a prelude to signing the final MOU for the final Provincial Iraqi Control, to be signed next week, without Coalition forces in this province,” Kelly said.
“It’s been overwhelmingly over the last four years a Marine-led or controlled province,” said Kelly, who commands nearly 25,500 Coalition forces in Anbar. “I am the sixth Marine general officer to command here in the province, but it’s been a joint-team effort; and over a thousand Americans of all ages and wearing all four of our countries uniforms have died here in the province, but (PIC) wouldn’t have happened if the Coalition had not been as good as it is.”
“This won’t be the first province to PIC, and it won’t be the last province to PIC; but I would say it the most remarkable province because of what has gone on here and what a fight it was, and how infiltrated al-Qaeda was here,” Kelly said.
Bubp described how al-Qaeda in Iraq had its headquarters in Ramadi and paraded down the main street of Ramadi in 2006. “You can see how dynamic things have changed; the people did not want al-Qaeda, they don’t want insurgents, they want peace, they want to raise their families and they want more for their children than what they’ve got -education being number one, not only for boys but for girls too. It’s exciting to see all of those things coming together in what we call a democracy.”
With fledgling democracy growing, violence is dying.
"I would compare the level of violence in a city like Fallujah or Ramadi as much lower than the level of violence in the cities in America, if not all cities in America, of like size," Kelly said.
Still, Kelly cautions on using the word victory just yet; there is still much to be done.
For the Iraqis to have victory they need to carry the ball the last 10 yards, said Kelly. He added that economic development and reconstruction are in the hands of the Iraqi government, who has enough money to fund their own initiatives.
But Kelly says he is not done. “We will not walk away from them; we are still very much partnered with them.”