Lt. Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, commanding general, Multi National Corps-Iraq, spoke to members of the press on current situations and progress in the Iraq theater of operations.
Austin emphasized that he was pleased with the situation on the ground and that Iraq security forces have greatly improved their performance over the past year, while including goals for the future.
"As we look at the city of Basra...we see a much improved Iraqi Security Force," Austin said. "The Iraqi Security Forces are taking the fight to these criminals and I am very optimistic by what I have seen first-hand in my visits down there."
Austin noted the progress he has seen with ISF and partnering coalition forces in Baghdad.
"The Iraqi Security Forces and coalition forces are aggressively pursuing these criminal elements that are launching rockets against the seat of the Iraqi Government located in the International Zone," Austin said. "We have identified the point of origin for the vast majority of these attacks to be in and around Sadr City. Our goal is to eliminate the criminal threat, enforce the rule of law and improve the quality of life for the people."
Austin noted that although ISF cannot fully stand on their own yet, U.S. and coalition forces are in the fight to support them.
U.S. forces have helped to provide combat enablers such as logistical support, close air support and medical evacuation, Austin said. Coalition units and training teams have embedded with ISF to provide them with access to those enablers.
"While they do not have all of the components required to be self sustaining, they have improved considerably from where they were just a year ago," Austin said.
Austin made clear that his primary goal is to defeat Al Qaeda in Iraq and build capacity in areas affected by them.
"Looking ahead, our goal is to defeat Al Qaeda in the North while holding our gains in the key cities across the country," Austin said. "We have disrupted Al Qaeda and they have lost the support of the population, and we will work to expand the reach of the government of Iraq in the south by leveraging our Provincial Reconstruction Teams."
The CG concluded with confidence in the future of operations in Iraq and offered words of hope and encouragement.
"In closing, I see a tremendous amount of potential for the future of Iraq. The Iraqi Security Forces are developing very well," Austin said. "I have seen them operate in Basra, Baghdad and in Mosul, as well as many other areas of the country. They are fighting very hard to provide security for the country."