Baghdad Is 'Center of Gravity for Iraq'

It was a brief, quiet ceremony with big implications.

The Army's 1st Cavalry Division assumed primary responsibility for Baghdad's security from the 4th Infantry Division during an official handoff ceremony at Camp Liberty.

Commanding General Maj. Gen. Joseph Fil noted that this was the second time the unit had been here since the war began. He said his troops were "excited" to be back again. Many are on their second or third tour.

Fil bluntly called the situation here "much more complex, much more difficult." Of the so-called clear-hold-build strategy, Fil conceded that the hold and build portions were "more difficult." He said success depended on having more Iraqi forces. "We have sufficient [U.S.] forces to do the job."

He called Baghdad "the center of gravity for Iraq," and he said the primary mission was maintaining its stability and security. Fil said he was "optimistic" this would be a "great year for Iraq."

A Triple Threat

He said he had watched the situation here evolve, and now the troops fight on three fronts: against a Sunni-led insurgency, against al Qaeda and other terror elements, and against what he called the "complex and difficult" sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shiites.

Fil described the mission as more "academic." Soldiers have gone through language training, cultural training, and training to understand the nature of the insurgency.

"This is not a fight that can be won just on brute strength," he said.

Fil has been here before. He commanded a unit that was primarily responsible for the training of Iraqi police. Interestingly, he left questions about the nature of the Iraqi security forces to the Iraqi government. He said the Iraqi government was "very serious" about cleaning up the security forces.

"We sense that there's a window here. … There is a clock here, and it's time for things to move forward."

He said the conditions were right, but "that doesn't mean it's going to be an easy year. This is a time, which I think is decisive for Iraq and for the coalition."

He said, "We can't continue just to continue," noting both Iraqis and Americans "expect some success."

Asked about the political shifts at home, Fil said that he recognized them but that he felt no added pressure.

"We work for the president of the United States."