Mosul, Iraq–Five months after the U.S. military became the sole foreign force on Iraqi soil following the departure of British forces, the U.S. officially changed the command name from Multi-National Force-Iraq to U.S. Force-Iraq.

The change of command was held on Dec. 31, 2009 at a ceremony in Baghdad, but does not affect the security support that U.S. forces provide to the Government of Iraq.

New commander Gen. Ray Odierno said the change “recognizes the immense progress being made by the Government of Iraq and specifically the Ministry of Defense, the Iraqi Army, the Ministry of the Interior, Iraqi Police, and the Federal Police,” in a Jan.1 posting on his Facebook Fan Page.

Statistical data compiled from Iraqi and U.S. forces reports shows that civilian deaths have decreased over 95 percent since the beginning of Operation Fardh al-Qanoon (The Surge). Insurgency attacks are also down 90 percent since that time, and are at their lowest levels since before January 2004.

“The amount of significant events per day has dramatically fallen,” said Capt. Michael Obal, an intelligence officer with the Hawaii-based 130th Engineer Brigade. “Now, we’re having people approach us [about extortion attempts and threats], and the police are dealing with it. Maybe not as effectively or efficiently as we would hope, but it’s a start. Just the fact that the population use their security forces in that way, it’s a good thing to see.”

For most soldiers at Contingency Operating Site Marez, such as those from the 130th Eng. Bde. The new name doesn’t represent a significant change.

“That doesn’t affect me at all,” said Spc. Giovanni Rioz, adding that he hasn’t seen any forces other than U.S. since arriving in June 2009, but worked with Australian soldiers in a previous deployment.

In all, 21 countries, from Mongolia to Latvia, participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom–a group former President George W. Bush called the ‘coalition of the willing.’

U.S. forces have been scheduled to completely withdrawal from Iraq by the end of 2011, after an agreement signed by the Iraqi government during Bush’s final months in office. A troop draw-down started by Bush was accelerated when President Barack Obama took office. Just 50,000 U.S. troops will remain in Iraq beyond August 2010.

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