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How to smooth the transition in Iraq

The town of Mahmoudiya is ready for the next step: a Transition Task Force.

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Mahmoudiya, a town south of Baghdad, was part of the area long known as the "Triangle of Death" because of the extraordinary number of Sunni insurgent attacks against coalition forces and Iraqi civilians it suffered – often half a dozen daily in 2006. Today, with violence down to only a few ineffective attacks in any given week, it has earned the moniker "Triangle of Love."

The progress there is due in part to the new US strategy. It involved living among the local population to break the hold of the insurgents and now focuses more on partnering and empowering local Iraqi forces than depending on US troops to target and capture enemies.

This switch in Mahmoudiya has spurred economic growth in the area and sheds light on how to manage a drawdown of US forces without sacrificing the hard-won security gains of the past 18 months.

It's clear that the ultimate success of our counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq requires not just a reduction in all types of enemy activity, but also an increase in the capacity of the Iraqi Security Forces and the local governing councils.

Improving Iraq's security and governance sectors will be America's enduring role in the country long after most American troops have left. But we need a new paradigm to transition our large-scale combat presence into a lower profile advisory role. A new concept called the Transition Task Force (TTF) shows us the way in Mahmoudiya.

The TTF will help the Iraqi Army internalize the lessons our own army has learned over the past five years about fighting an insurgency by mentoring and enabling its Iraqi Army partners to be an effective force in Mahmoudiya.

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