We spoke with the Deputy Commanding General for Operations for MultiNational Division -- Center, Brigadier General Jeff Buchanan. (Transcript here). MND-C is where 4/3 is located, so see our recent discussion with COL James as well.
BG Buchanan reiterates the impressive numbers representing the progress made in his AO over the last year. I asked him about the departure of the Georgians, because MND-C had the area for Georgian operations; and what that meant for his force-level requirements.
First of all, we're very thankful to the Georgian forces. You know, they were the third-largest -- at the time they departed, they were the third largest contributor to the coalition of all the forces. And they provided significant security in parts of Wasit province. They also were operating -- we had one of their battalions operating at the time in southeastern Baghdad province under the command and control of one of our coalition force brigades...
Obviously the world situation being what it is, they had to redeploy and did so in a hurry. I want to recognize the professionalism with which they departed. They got out in a hurry. Of course, we helped them do hat. But nobody left a post unmanned. We were able to hand off the checkpoints that they had to a combination of coalition force, U.S. dominantly, and Iraqi security forces, every one of those posts.
What had been, in some cases, just a checkpoint, we are turning into a joint security station, which includes an Iraqi platoon from the 8th Infantry Division, the 8th Iraqi Army Division and a company or a platoon from our brigade that's operating in Wasit.... [W]e have not seen any change in the level of security. And because our focus is on development and professionalization of the ISF, this actually has given us an additional opportunity to partner with Iraqi forces that we had not been partnered with previously.
MND-C has taken the difficulty of an unexpected departure of a brigade and turned it into an opportunity to advance its operations. The change of the checkpoints in Wasit to JSS will give the Iraqis direct experience in watching the roads from Iran, and searching for contraband weapons, explosives, and so forth.
That comes at a cost, however. MND-C was a 'Surge division,' as it was set up at the time of the Surge where there hadn't been a separate DIV-level command before. The plan at one time had been for it to stand down at least a brigade, but that is not now possible:
[W]e don't have any redeployments or any unanticipated draw-downs or anything like that throughout our operational environment. And honestly, as the tasks are laid out, when you lay out those tasks for the area that I gave you and you intersect that with the level of professionalization development of the Iraqi security forces and overlay across all of it where we are in governance, we have the right amount of forces that we have for the tasks that we're facing.
Something to keep in mind as we debate force level plans for the future in this election season. The Iraqi Army is increasingly able to take over duties that were Coalition duties before, and their professionalism is constantly improving -- BG Buchanan lauds them in his full remarks, if you want to read more about that. That said, there is going to be the need to stand down in a responsible manner, and to ensure that our commanders have the force levels they need to finish the job.