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Fort Drum soldiers take lead in Iraq fight, 15 years after Americans began operations in the country

American Flag (Unsplash/Lucas Sankey)

Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division formally took the lead of the international ground forces helping Iraqi troops defeat ISIS in the country.

The Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command — Operation Inherent Resolve, previously managed by the 1st Armored Division, represents 75 nations and international organizations supporting training, advising and equipping Iraq’s security forces.

“We are deeply honored to take our place in this Coalition,” said Maj. Gen. Walter E. Piatt, commander of the 10th Mountain Division.

The ceremony took place 15 years to the day of when American forces first entered the country to take on Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, after President George W. Bush and his cabinet built the case that the country was developing weapons of mass destruction.

A recap of Monday’s ceremony and official remarks was provided by the coalition’s public affairs office.

Coalition commander Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk II said the coalition provided support as Iraqi forces took Mosul back from ISIS.

“Life is beginning to stabilize in liberated areas, but the battle against this barbaric enemy is not over,” he said.

Maj. Gen. Robert P. White, commander of the Texas-based 1st Armored Division, said “thousands of Iraqi martyrs made” the wins against ISIS possible.

The coalition news release said the transfer of authority between the two divisions was “another step forward in reducing U.S. troop levels in accordance with the request of the Government of Iraq.”

In the weeks leading up to the deployment, Gen. Piatt told several audiences that the division’s deployment comes at a critical time in ensuring the country’s stability, including elections in May.

“You can win the fight and lose the peace because you didn’t do anything with the peace,” Gen. Piatt said. “This stabilization we’re trying to provide is so critical.”

That development work, he told an audience at Jefferson Community College, “will take generations.”

“We cannot allow conditions to be set that will allow such a brutal force to rise and in such numbers that they could actually threaten the takeover of a country and invade and destroy and hold terrain, that can’t happen,” Gen. Piatt said.

A study released Monday by Pew Research said that about 48 percent of Americans said the decision to use military force in the country was wrong, while about 43 percent said it was the right decision.

Many of the opinions reflected in the study were divided along partisan lines, the group said.

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© 2018 Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, N.Y.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.