Iraqi security forces are well prepared for the withdrawal of the last of the U.S. combat troops from the country on Sept. 1, which will mark the completion of the transition from combat to stability operations, according to senior U.S. military officials.
In areas across Iraq, U.S. troops continue to pull out. The 3rd Infantry Division has gone from 22,000 U.S. troops to 15,000 in nine months, according to Col. Thomas James, the division's chief of staff. What's more, of the 41 U.S. bases that were operating in the north of the country as recently as last November, only eight remain open.
James estimated that extremist enemy forces currently comprise less than one percent of the total population, thanks to the increased capabilities of Iraqi security forces. As a result, these extremist forces have seen "a reduction in their command and control and capability of conducting coherent attacks," he added. "To see the progress that has occurred, and to see civil capability starting to grow and to see markets starting to flourish, and compare that to our prior rotation, I think really, really builds morale," James said in a roundtable with defense writers. "The best way I see it is that [Iraqi security forces] are capable of handling the existing threat right now, which will buy them time to be able to work towards [handling] a larger threat to their country in the future."