Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Tuesday (August 31st) that Iraqi security forces are capable of maintaining security in Iraq "thanks to their professionalism, competency, and commitment to the interests of the nation and the citizen".
Al-Maliki spoke during a press conference held in Baghdad to mark the official end of the US combat mission in Iraq.
"From this day on, our security forces and agencies will play the leading role in establishing security, defending the country, and rebuffing the dangers that it is exposed to, whether from internal or external sources," al-Maliki said.
Al-Maliki said Iraq and its security forces have faced many challenges over the past few years, "but we were able to overcome many of them at the political, security, economic, and social levels".
"Terrorism has been at the top of the list of these challenges," he said.
The withdrawal of US forces from Iraq comes as part of a security agreement signed between Iraq and the United States Iraq in 2008.
US President Barack Obama marked the end of combat operations in Iraq during a speech from the White House Tuesday evening.
"Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country," Obama said, adding that a transitional force of US troops will remain in the country to advise and assist Iraqi security forces.
"This completes a transition to Iraqi responsibility for their own security. US troops pulled out of Iraq’s cities last summer, and Iraqi forces have moved into the lead with considerable skill and commitment to their fellow citizens. Even as Iraq continues to suffer terrorist attacks, security incidents have been near the lowest on record since the war began. And Iraqi forces have taken the fight to al Qaeda, removing much of its leadership in Iraqi-led operations," Obama said.
In his speech, Al-Maliki called on "national forces and parties to bear their responsibility in the post-withdrawal stage to unify ranks in our open battle against terrorism and to complete the building of state institutions and security forces."
"Our success in the battle against terrorism depends on our national unity and the support we give to our security forces and agencies," he added.
Last week, the Iraqi government placed Iraqi police and army forces in a state of full alert to fend off any attacks or violence terrorist groups may have planned to try to undermine security.
Alaa al-Taey, spokesperson for the Iraqi Ministry of Interior, said the deployment of security forces, raising the level of caution, and declaring a state of maximum alert is "a tactic that the people will see a lot of in the upcoming period as Iraqi forces continue to take over more security responsibilities".
He said the information available to Iraqi security forces indicates that al-Qaeda "intends to stage attacks with the purpose of delivering a message to the effect that it is still alive in Iraq".
Al-Taey said the goal behind the new security measures is "to show the extent of the power of the state and its security forces, and to raise the state of alert to deny terrorist groups the chance to stage last-gasp attacks ".
"The current plan aims to achieve a number of goals for the benefit of public security, including re-evaluating the current situation and creating long-term and short-term plans," said Maj. Gen. Mohammed al-Askari, spokesperson for the Iraqi Ministry of Defence. "The citizens will notice and feel this in terms of improved security in Baghdad and Iraq in general."
Baghdad Operations Command spokesperson Maj. Gen. Qassim Atta said security officials stressed the need to empower intelligence agencies and mobilise citizens in co-operation with community councils and municipalities "because the current and next stages are important and we must not overlook anything or give room to the enemy".
In Anbar province, which was once considered among the least stable Iraqi provinces, Deputy Governor Hekmat Jassim Zaidan described the deployment of more Iraqi forces there as an "important and natural thing".
"Iraqi security forces have ventured into the hornet's nest, or rather, they have stormed the strongholds of terrorists," Zaidan said. "And as a result, they were dispersed and split, trying to hit sites here and there to diffuse the Iraqi military effort."
"However, the terrorists will certainly fail," he said.
Lt. Col. Ali al-Shemari of Diyala Operations Room said, "Raising the state of alert of the security forces was also made to prevent any laxity or indifference on the part of security forces in their war on terror."
"It serves as new booster for the security forces during this stage, which we hope will see the end of violence in Iraq," he said.