My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence (John Hutton) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
I should like to make a Statement on the restructuring of coalition regional commands in Iraq and the implications for the ongoing UK mission there.
As the Iraqi security forces have grown and matured, coalition forces across Iraq have been able to move increasingly into overwatch and mentoring operations. These successes have allowed coalition forces and structures to be rationalised and combat forces from several nations have been able to return home. The UK has also been able to reduce the scale of its deployment.
Until recently, the area south of Baghdad was divided into three multinational divisional areas, with MND-Centre under US control, MND-Centre South under Polish control and MND-South East under UK control. In future, it is anticipated that only a single multinational divisional headquarters will be required south of Baghdad, given that the Iraqi security forces now have the lead in providing the security for all nine provinces in this area. As part of this restructuring, MND-Centre merged with MND-Centre South as Polish forces completed their mission and MND-Centre has now also taken over overwatch from MND-South East of the three provinces Muthanna, Dhi Qar and Maysan. This new US divisional area is called MND-Centre. Security in these three provinces is provided by the 10th Division of the Iraqi Army (previously trained by UK and Australian forces) and therefore this boundary move does not affect any UK forces, which are focused in Basra. This restructuring of divisional areas is therefore an adjustment to reflect better both the dispositions of coalition and Iraqi forces on the ground and the continuing improvements in security. This new divisional area will remain MND-Centre.
MND-South East, which now consists solely of Basra province, remains focused on developing the rapidly improving 14th Division. The delivery of 14th Division was defined by the Prime Minister in his 22 July statement as one of the decisive conditions for transition and it is therefore right that this is where UK forces concentrate their efforts. As the Iraqi security forces increasingly take responsibility for providing security, the role and shape of the coalition will naturally evolve as efforts increasingly focus on economic development, reconstruction and capacity building.