As the last US combat troops left Iraq, Iraqi security officials expressed their confidence in the ability of Iraqi forces to maintain security.
The assurances came Friday (August 20th), one day after the last US combat unit left the country as part of the security agreement signed between Iraq and the United States.
Maj. Gen. Mohammed al-Askari, spokesperson for the Iraqi Ministry of Defence, said that the war on terror will not be difficult for Iraqi forces.
"Iraqi forces have passed the stage of preparation and are currently in the stage of professional combat," he said. "Meanwhile, al-Qaeda has become an easy target that can be eliminated in the upcoming period." More than 50,000 US troops are still in Iraq, but their mission has changed from direct participation in security operations to working in advisory and training roles. The US forces are scheduled to fully withdraw from the country by the end of 2011.
Tahseen al-Sheikhli, civilian spokesperson for Operation Enforcing Law in Baghdad, said the withdrawal of US combat units from Iraq indicates that Iraqi security forces are now in "complete control of security, and therefore, can depend on themselves and develop their own capabilities."
"In addition, the withdrawal refutes the pretexts of fighting the occupation that terrorist organisations used to justify their criminal operations against the Iraqi people," he said.
Iraqi government official spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh also said Iraqi forces were prepared to carry out the security mission on their own.
"The withdrawal of US combat units was planned and arranged between the government of Iraq and the US administration, and we support such a move," he said. "We had to choose either to have a long-term presence of foreign troops on our soil or to carry out the mission on our own. We chose to carry out the mission through our own security forces."
Security officials in a number of Iraqi provinces also confirmed that Iraqi forces could manage security in the country.
Diyala provincial police chief Maj. Gen. Abdul Hussain al-Shemari said Iraqi forces will preserve the security gains made while US combat troops were present.
"They will also work on developing and raising the rate of security in cities that witness some terrorist operations," he said.
Al-Shemari also emphasised the important role citizens play in helping security forces.
"The achievements of the Iraqi forces in the future will depend on the co-operation of citizens with us," he said. "The citizens have previously proven their desire and love for their country and their rejection of terrorists."
Lt. Gen. Ali Ghaidan, commander of the Iraqi Army ground forces, said the Iraqi Ministry of Defence created a plan to manage security in the country in c-ooperation with other ministries and security institutions.
"As a first stage, the responsibility for managing security will be on the shoulders of the Iraqi Army forces," Ghaidan said. "In the second stage, the tasks will be transferred from the army forces to the police forces that are responsible for domestic security. After that, the army forces will take responsibility for securing the borders of the country to defend against external threats."
The war is now between Iraqi forces and "al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups", said Anbar police chief Maj. Gen. Bahaa al-Karkhi.
"We will not accept anything short of a resounding victory and the establishment of security all over Iraq," he said.
"For a long time now, we have been progressing confidently. We have made great achievements, including arresting many terrorists. We are on the right path, and there will not be any confusion or disruption to our work," he said.