Just hours after a half-dozen bombings killed at least 17 people in Baghdad, a ceremony in the capital city marked a major milestone. A pair of signatures and the transfer of a flag officially put Iraq's government in control of its own military, CBS News correspondent Aleen Sirgany reports.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki signed a document taking control of Iraq's small naval and air forces and the 8th Iraqi Army Division, based in the south.
The top U.S. commander on the ground, Gen. George Casey, vowed that coalition troops will still fight side by side with Iraqi forces for the foreseeable future.
"Today is an important milestone, but as we say, we still have a way to go," Casey said at a ceremony with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to mark the event.
The transfer of power brings U.S. troops one step closer to coming home, but there are no predictions on how long it will take for Iraqi troops to be fully ready to secure their own country.
Previously, the U.S.-led Multinational Forces in Iraq gave orders to the Iraqi armed forces through a joint American-Iraqi headquarters and chain of command. Senior U.S. and coalition officers controlled larger units, which were in turn commanded by Iraq officers.
Now, the chain of command flows directly from the prime minister in his role as Iraqi commander in chief, through his defense ministry to an Iraqi military headquarters. From there, the orders the flow to Iraqi units on the ground.
In other developments:Al-Jazeera aired Thursday previously unshown footage of the preparations for the Sept. 11 attacks in which al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden is seen meeting with some of the planners and hijackers in a mountain camp in Afghanistan. included the last will and testaments of two of the hijackers, Wail al-Shehri and Hamza al-Ghamdi.The Senate Intelligence Committee will issue a report Friday, two years in the making, that Democrats on the panel say will prove that misuse of intelligence played a role in the Bush administration's decision to go to war in Iraq. The 400-page study to be released by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will examine how intelligence analysts and officials used information provided by the Iraqi National Congress, a group opposed to President Saddam Hussein that had financial backing from the United States.The Senate agreed to spend an additional $63 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as lawmakers on Thursday passed a massive bill that funds the Pentagon. The bill sailed through by a vote of 98-0. The bill now totals $469.7 billion. It grew by more than $16 billion during a debate that began in July before it was suspended during lawmakers' four-week August recess.Thursday's death toll from violence in Iraq stands at 25, with the majority of them blamed on a half-dozen bombings in the capital. Of the blasts there Thursday, three were by suicide car bombers. At least 17 people died in the capital today, including some police officers. Also, authorities say two American soldiers were killed Wednesday, while a Marine died Thursday.Iraq announced it had executed 27 "terrorists" convicted by Iraqi courts of killings and rapes in several provinces. The 27 were executed by hanging in Baghdad on Wednesday, the government's media office said in a brief statement Thursday.Two American soldiers and one Marine were killed in separate incidents Iraq, the U.S. military command said Thursday. Both soldiers died Wednesday, one in the restive Anbar province west of Baghdad, the other near Hawija, 150 miles north of the capital. The Marine died Thursday from wounds sustained while operating in Anbar province on Sept. 6.Updated figures from Iraq's Health Ministry show there was no significant decline in violent deaths in Baghdad last month, but the U.S. military insisted Thursday the murder rate in the capital had fallen by 52 percent. The Iraqi government on Thursday ordered Arabic satellite network Al-Arabiya to shut down its Baghdad operations for one month, state television reported. Al-Arabiya said Iraqi police later arrived at its offices to enforce the order, which was apparently issued by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's cabinet. In July, al-Maliki warned television stations against broadcasting video that could undermine Iraq's stability.The number of U.S. troops in Iraq rose to 145,000 this week, the highest since December and 15,000 more than a month ago. Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. Todd Vician said Thursday the increase is temporary, and that it owes to a routine rotation of forces — that is, a bump in numbers. Such a shift lasts for a matter of weeks, he said, as replacement troops arrive and overlap with troops ending their tours and preparing to leave.
Al-Maliki described the move by Iraq to take control of its armed forces command as a great step forward for the country.
"The Iraqi army now, by the courage of its people and its sons in the Iraqi army, rebuilds itself again," al-Maliki said.
Alluding to the sectarian violence that has been going on for months, al-Maliki said the Iraqi military will be based "away from sectarian values."
Handing over control of the country's security to Iraqi forces is vital to any eventual drawdown of U.S. forces. After disbanding the remaining Iraqi military following the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, coalition forces have been training new Iraqi forces.