Nassiriya, Iraq -- Iraqi infantry units took part in training exercises designed to make them self-reliant after the U.S. forces leave the country by the end of the year.
More than 600 soldiers from the first Battalion, 40th Brigade of the 10th Iraqi Army Division took part in the drill at the newly-built training center at Camp Dhi Qar just outside the southern city of Nasiriya.
"This training is designed to help the Iraqi army prepare for external threats, not necessarily insurgents but external threats in protecting the country's sovereignty," U.S. instructor captain Joshua Hunter said.
Under a security pact signed between Baghdad and Washington in December 2008, Iraqi forces must take full security responsibility after the U.S. pullout by the end of 2011.
The army which has been re-built after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 needs several years to fully build its capabilities, military officers say.
"This training is designed to provide the Iraqi army a sustainable training methodology that they can do long after the American mission is over. There are four training centers all over Iraq. They are working together simultaneously, training the same techniques on the same timeline. What this allows for is standardized training methodology, so army as a whole becomes more standardized and help their capabilities along over the years," said Major Alan Brown, public affairs officer of the U.S. army.
Iraqis will assume full responsibility for the training center after the U.S. pullout.
"By the next several months it will be completely Iraqi run. The Iraqi staff will be planning all of the events, Iraqi trainers will be conducting all the training and our role will be less and less every month," Brown said.
Iraqi security forces face a huge challenge in maintaining security across the country after 2011 due to a shortage of logistical support, internal political disputes and ongoing violence.