Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Good News from Iraq: 27 Jan 2009

From MNF-I, Government of Iraq signs for Camp Ramadi. (Jack used to hang at Camp Ramadi. And two-plus years after he got there, it is hard to imagine the incredible progress that occurred.)

CAMP RAMADI, Iraq – Official documents finalizing the transfer of ownership of Camp Ramadi to the Iraqi government were signed on Camp Ali, Iraq today.

The documents were signed by Maj. Gen. Martin Post, the deputy commanding general of Multinational Force-West, and Ali Al Yasiri, the director general for the Council of Ministers Operations, Government of Iraq. Representatives from the Iraqi army, Government of Iraq and Coalition forces witnessed the signing, which officially gave Camp Ramadi back over to the Iraqi government. A memorandum of agreement was signed last week outlining the areas that will continue to be used by Coalition forces.

The memorandum of agreement, which was signed Jan. 20 by Staff Brig. Gen. Adel, the commander of the First Quick Reaction Force Brigade, Iraqi army, headquartered at Camp Ali, and U.S. Army Col. Ronald Kapral, the commander of Camp Ramadi and the 81st Brigade Combat Team, Washington Army National Guard, acts as a tenant agreement for the Coalition forces who are scheduled to remain on Camp Ramadi through 2011.

Signing over Camp Ramadi is a step toward Coalition forces pulling out and handing complete responsibility and control back over to the Iraqis.

“This is very important for Coalition forces because we are handing the land back over to the Iraqis,” said Post.

“It shows that the U.S. military and the Coalition forces are starting to prepare to turn over and demilitarize the bases that we have been using for the past five years,” said Kapral who took part in both signings. “If you look at what has been done in the past five years, the Iraqi army has started taking responsibility for their actions. They’re starting to support themselves. They are proving training we have given them over the past three years is starting to pay off. The Iraqi army wants to take charge of their country, wants their bases and wants to provide the security for the people of Iraq that they have been lacking up until we came in and started a democracy in Iraq.”

Ar Ramadi was a center of Sunni insurgent resistance in the years following the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. The area is now better known as one of Iraq’s biggest success stories.

Coalition forces took possession of Camp Ramadi, formerly known as Camp Junction City, in 2003 shortly after the ground offensive. Since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Ar Ramadi has had a handful of bases occupied by Coalition forces returned to the Iraq government. Camp Ramadi is now one of the last Coalition-only bases left in the Ar Ramadi area.

Although the signing marks a big step for the Iraqi government and leaders of Coalition forces, the majority of the troops stationed on Camp Ramadi will notice little change, if any.

“For those of us who physically live on Camp Ramadi, it really doesn’t change the normal day-to-day operations. What it does mean, from a long-term perspective, is that Coalition forces are giving back the bases and land to the Iraqis, due to their sovereignty,” said Lt. Col. Kevin McMahan, Camp Ramadi operations officer, who was present for both signings.

Force protection measures will not be changed. All camp improvement projects will continue. Iraqis will take a look at the buildings on Camp Ramadi to see if it is something they want to keep. The physical structures built on camp Ramadi will either be prepared to be handed over in 2011 or torn down. Part of the agreement is for Coalition forces to put the base back to the way they found it.

The Iraqi army and the Iraqi Police have been taking control much more, as Coalition forces have been stepping into the background.

“From my personal opinion, it is the beginning of the end. We are posturing to give back bases to the Iraqis. It will allow us to take a more supportive role,” said McMahan.