The U.S.-led Multinational Force turned over security responsibility for Qadisiyah province, also known as Diwaniyah, to Iraq on Wednesday. With that transfer, Iraq now has control over 10 of its 18 provinces. Iraq's national security advisor says he hopes the government will regain control of the other provinces by year's end. VOA's Suzanne Presto reports from the northern city of Irbil.
In a nationally televised ceremony on Wednesday, Iraq assumed responsibility for Qadisiyah province. That transfer tipped the scales, and now more than half of Iraq's provinces are back under government control.
Iraq's National Security Advisor Muaffak al-Rubaie spoke at the handover ceremony in Qadisiyah's provincial capital, Diwaniyah. He told the gathered crowd that he hoped Iraq would assume control of its remaining eight provinces by the end of this year.
The U.S.-led Multinational Force has already transferred security responsibility for the provinces of Maysan, Muthanna, Basra, Dhi Qar, Najaf and Karbala. And the Kurdistan Regional Government oversees the three northern provinces of Dohuk, Sulaimaniyah and Irbil.
Deputy Parliament Speaker Sheikh Khalid al-Attiya says Iraqi forces have proven that they are ready to assume control of Qadisiyah.
He said his confidence in the military's readiness stems from recent Iraqi-led security operations that have been successful, such as the offensive to crack down on militants in Maysan province.
According to the Multinational Force, a committee assesses whether a province is stable enough to be transferred to Iraqi authority. The committee is comprised of Iraqi government officials, U.S. and British embassy representatives, and members of the Multinational Force. Another committee, chaired by Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, reviews the recommendations and makes the final determination.
It was two years ago this week that the first province was transferred back to Iraqi control.