More civilians to replace military in Iraq

Friday - 1/21/2011, 10:08am EST

Jeffrey Buchanan is the spokesman for U.S. Forces in Iraq

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By John Buckner
Federal News Radio

As troop presence in Iraq begins to wind down, the civilian workforce is increasing their efforts in the transition to "Operation New Dawn."

Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, spokesperson for U.S. forces in Iraq, told Federal News Radio the partnership between civilian and military forces is going great.

Buchanan said there still are about 50,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and they are focusing on three main areas.

"To advise, train, assist and equip the Iraqi security forces," he said. "Our second task is to continue to conduct partner counter-terrorism operations and our third task is to support and protect the civilian workers that come from the U.S. mission in Iraq and the United Nation."

However with the withdrawal of the troops themselves being a daunting task, the withdrawal of military equipment also is an issue.

"We have been transferring equipment to the Iraqi forces for a number of years and much of it has been purchased by the Iraqi government," Buchanan said. "Along with leaving equipment in the area, the military is working on the transfer of the control of bases as well as re-deploying equipment the Iraqi government is not buying.

The security agreement signed in November 2008 between the U.S. and Iraq, "mandates the final transition of the U.S. forces mission by the end of the [2011] ," said Buchanan.

He added that future U.S. government relations with the Iraqi government mostly will be a "very significant civilian led effort."

Currently, the State Department has an estimated 1,000 workers stationed in Iraq as well as 2,700 contractors. Although Buchanan did not mention if the civilian workforce will increase, he did say that when it comes to promoting Iraq's development it is the "civilian partners in this effort that are really making significant gains."

"I've operated around the world and this is by far the best relationship I've ever seen between the military effort and the ambassador effort," said Buchanan.

The role of U.S. ambassador missions in Iraq is led by State but not limited to only the department. There are a wide range of agencies involved in the civilian effort such as the departments of Agriculture, Justice, Treasury and Homeland Security.

"We've got a great partnership, we're working to reinforce that and strengthen it as we transition task from the military to the civilian leadership and that we keep a strong partnership with the Iraqi government well into the future," Buchanan said.

John Buckner is an intern with Federal News Radio.

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