News: Transition to USF-I marks significant step
Story by: MSG David Bennett
COB BASRA, Iraq — Though the name has changed, the aim remains the same.
On Jan. 1, all U.S. command groups merge into United States Forces-Iraq. While the new configuration is significant as far as headquarters elements are concerned, the intent of transitioning to a full fledged Iraqi force remains the goal.
As part of the reconfiguration, Multi-National Force-Iraq, Multi-National Corps-Iraq, Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq, Joint Area Support Group-Central, Task Force 134 — which oversees detainee operations and the Gulf Region Division will be rolled into USF-I.
The merger is more than a name change. It reflects the first solid step to a responsible drawdown of U.S. troops in Iraq. According to projections, the U.S. will reduce the number of troops in the country to 50,000 by Aug. 31, from a current level of 115,000.
Comparably, Iraqi Security Forces have grown to more than 600,000.
To comply with the Security Agreement with Iraq, U.S. forces are exchanging combat operations for stability, advisory and assistance assignments.
Lt. Col. Christopher Larrabee, deputy chief of plans for the 34th Infantry Division, which commands United States Division South, formerly Multi-National Division South — said the transition will ultimately mean a 40 percent reduction in headquarters personnel.
As Brigade Combat Teams decrease in strength, the headquarters and command and control functions are streamlining nationwide. Nevertheless, the security and solidity of Iraq remains the top priority, Larrabee said.
"We'll continue with the mission we've embarked on, which is to provide aid and assistance to the Iraqi forces," he said.
U.S. run Provincial Reconstruction Teams maintain a vital role in Iraq's provinces and still depend on the presence and dispersion of U.S. forces to function. The new U.S. forces headquarters still help connect the provinces and the central government, aiding the Iraqi government.
The drawdown of U.S. forces has not diminished the importance of securing the the March national elections in Iraq. More than 290 political parties thus far have registered with the state to run.
Overseeing the new organization is Gen. Raymond Odierno, head of MNF-I, who takes on the mantle of USF-I commander.
Likewise, when MNC-I cases its colors Jan. 1, Lt. Gen. Charles Jacoby Jr., MNC-I commander, will become deputy commanding general of USF-I. Officials said that in the following months, the second phase of the drawdown will continue until target goals are met.