BRIG. GEN. STEPHEN LANZA: My name is Brig. Gen. Steve Lanza. I'm the director of the CJ-9 for Multi-National Forces in Iraq.
The June 30 transition is very important, because this signifies the completion of the security agreement that was signed on 1 January. We are fully committed to the implementation of the security agreement that requires that all combat troops are moved out of the cities throughout Iraq. As a result of the security agreement there will be some soldiers left in the cities to coordinate, train and advise the Iraqi security forces at their request.
The security agreement turns over security to the Iraqi security forces throughout Iraq for the Iraqi security people and it reinforces the Iraq's government's sovereignty in this nation.
It's important to know that what's happening in the cities: All our combat troops are moving out of the cities. The issue becomes, in the cities, is that our mission changes from combat operations to stability operations. And those soldiers that are in the cities will continue to coordinate, train and advise the Iraqi security forces in order to increase their capability and their capacity.
As our combat troops move out of the cities and into places, into bases outside the city, they become available for other missions. Some of those other missions could entail helping the Iraqis secure borders, but also supporting the security around the belts that are around the city, which limits the enemy's ability and limits the capability of the extremists to move into the cities, into the highly densely populated areas.
The bombings in Sadr City (in Baghdad) and other places have been high-profile attacks, and they've been small in number but drastic in their effects. They have been cowardly attacks against innocent people, innocent women and children that were worshiping at the mosque and were just doing simple things like being in the marketplace.
What's important to know, though, however, is that while these were heinous and cowardly attacks, the overall security in Iraq has improved. Therefore, the time is right for us to turn over security to the Iraqi security forces. What the violent extremists want us to do is they want the people to revert back to the ethno-sectarian violence that was so strong in this country just a very short time ago. But the people have not accepted this bankrupt philosophy, and the attacks have actually galvanized them against the violent extremists that have perpetuated these attacks against them.
I can tell you having been here in 2005, what I've seen is a drastic improvement personally in the Iraqi security forces. Over half a million men trained in the Minister of Interior, almost 200 battalions in the Iraqi Army. Not only are they trained and capable and ready to conduct this mission, but they have the logistic capability and they have the leadership capability to do this. And we the American military who are here right now, we stand ready to support them, based on any requirements that they may give us or any requirements from the Iraqi government.
This 30 June date is a momentous day of celebration for the Iraqi people. When I have been around to different places and I've seen the Iraqis at the ceremonies where we've turned over bases to them, it's their pride in their military, it's their pride in their security forces that is so evident. I see that when the national anthem is played at the Iraqi nation, I see that when they hoist the Iraqi flag. But there's a genuine pride in the Iraqi people that they are not only asserting their sovereignty but that their security forces are now providing security and taking the lead in this in their country.