The area of Iraq that we call MND (SE) covers the four Provinces of Basrah, Muthanna, Dhi Qar and Maysan, with borders to Iran , Kuwait and Saudi Arabia .
It contains Umm Qasr, the country’s only deep water port and home to the new Iraqi Navy, and the Rumayla oilfields, which produce 90% of the income of Iraq .
I have about 13,000 troops here from the UK , Italy , Denmark , Australia , Rumania , Japan , the Czech Republic , Lithuania , Portugal , the Netherlands , and the USA .
My main effort, in common with the rest of the multinational forces in Iraq , is to help build the capability of the Iraqi Security Forces: the Army, the Police, the Department of Border Enforcement and the various Ministries’ Facilities Protection Services. Ideally, I would use all 13,000 soldiers for that task, but regrettably there is a security threat to my forces from factions who would wish to destabilise this country, and I have to divert resources to self protection tasks.
Several times a week I meet with Major General Abdul Latif, who is the commander of 10 Division Iraqi Army.
I have also travelled with him on visits to see provincial security chiefs to further the need for all Iraq ’s security forces to work together to counter terrorism and its causes. The Division, a total of nearly 7000 men, is already carrying out operations jointly with, and independently of, multi-national forces, although assisted when necessary.
General Latif’s HQ is located alongside mine at Basra Air Station and he has 4 Brigades under command, one in each of the Provinces. The Army has progressed rapidly since its re-formation and is self-supporting in many areas.
For instance, the Basic Training Centre in Tallil, which trains all recruits from the area, is now wholly Iraqi run and administered. Re-building the Army quickly is a major challenge and the multi-national forces have created dedicated teams to train and mentor the various headquarters and field units through ‘partnering’.
I also meet regularly with the DBE Regional Commander, also co-located here. This too is quite a success story with the new DBE border forts now nearly complete and new 4×4 vehicles and high powered HF radios being distributed as quickly as we can acquire them.Again, my forces are providing training assistance to the DBE and helping them build their capability quickly. They have been successful too as illustrated by a significant find of bomb- making material in Maysan recently.
Police training is more of a challenge and one that consumes much of my time.The Police Force was recruited very rapidly with minimal checking of the recruits and it is no secret that that parts of the Force have been infiltrated by militant factions whose loyalty is not to Iraq.
We are working closely with both the National and Provincial authorities to remove the bad and corrupt elements whilst redoubling our efforts to train the enthusiastic and loyal majority.
I am confident that the Iraqis themselves will gradually weed out the bad elements. At local level there are some real success stories as the Police become better equipped and trained and benefit from the many courses that the multinational forces and the International Police advisors are running.
Of course as the Commander of a large force I spend some time each day visiting units around the South East to hear at first hand about their problems and successes. This is very important so that I can gain an understanding of the issues that are concerning the Iraqi Security Forces and the wider population.
I know that many of these issues revolve around essential services and my HQ does a lot of work in coordinating the many international agencies that are involved in the reconstruction of Iraq .
The Constitutional Referendum is tomorrow.
The planning has been done by Iraqis and the security will be led by Iraqi Forces too. Of course multinational forces stand by to assist if required but I am confident that the Iraqi people will manage this on their own.
This will be a testing time for the security forces and will prove how they can work together to bring security to the people and protect the country’s borders and vital infrastructure. It will be a defining moment.