Iraqi Minister of Defence Abdul Qader al-Obeidi reiterated his confidence in the Iraqi forces and their ability to maintain security in Iraq after the withdrawal of US forces.
In an exclusive interview with Mawtani.com on Monday (August 2nd), al-Obeidi said Iraq "has gone past the stage of working to improve the security situation and entered the stage of security stability."
He said that building up Iraqi forces is an ongoing process, adding that the Iraqi Army has created an atmosphere of safety in Iraqi cities.
"This will certainly continue after the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq," he said.
The United States is on schedule to reduce its troop levels to 50,000 by September 1, 2010, before the final withdrawal from Iraq by the end of 2011.
"The Iraqi security commands are prepared for all security challenges," al-Obeidi said. "They are capable of managing the security file, whether in Baghdad or in any other Iraqi province."
The defense minister played down al-Qaeda's ability to threaten security or drag Iraq back into the violence of previous years.
"Al-Qaeda is dying out in Iraq," he said. "It has lost most of its important leaders, who were either killed or arrested, and the same thing also happened to the rest of the terrorist groups."
According to al-Obeidi, the Ministry of Defence has drawn up an extensive three-stage armament plan through 2020.
The first stage, set to end by 2012, includes providing resources to protect Iraq's infrastructure and support domestic security. The second and third stages include supplying the air force and air defense with modern weaponry.
Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesperson Alaa al-Taey also expressed his confidence in the ability of Iraqi police to maintain security in Iraqi cities and neighbourhoods after the withdrawal of US forces.
"The upcoming stage will be important and decisive for Iraqi security agencies, given that they will have to act on their own to deal with the challenges of the security file," al-Taey told Mawtani.com.
"However, there is a message of reassurance for all Iraqis and the entire world, to the effect that Iraq now has a force that no terrorist group can cope with," al-Taey said. "These are not mere words, but a fact based on accurate scientific data and figures."
Lt. Gen. Othman al-Ghanemi, commander of operations in southern Iraq, added that the Iraqi Army is no longer preoccupied with defensive operations and rebuffing terrorist attacks.
"We have entered a new stage, which is cleaning the cities of terrorists," al-Ghanemi told Mawtani.com. "We have finished the stage of rebuffing attacks and defence only. We are now stronger than ever, and we can defend our Iraqi homeland from north to south."
Security officials also praised the Iraqi army's neutrality in handling security affairs, which they say dispel fears the army becoming politicized or divided on sectarian lines.
"We have adopted the slogan 'Iraq First' and we are still adopting it and acting under it," said Maj. Gen. Mardhi al-Dulaimi of the Iraqi Army. "The army is above sectarianism and nationalist sentiments, and will always be an important factor in the establishment of security and stability in Iraq. It will also protect all Iraqis."
"However, citizen support for Iraqi forces is very important," al-Dulaimi said. "Therefore, we call on them to cooperate with security forces, confirming to them that we are about to declare our final victory and get rid of the cancer that is represented by terrorism."