Courtesy of American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD — Iraq’s governmental leaders are rising to confront “an array of complicated issues” amid a spike in insurgent violence, a senior U.S. military officer said Oct. 19. “The U.S. and Coalition leadership commends this perseverance, while the Multi-National Force-Iraq continues to assess and revise our strategy and tactics to support this government” in an ever-changing, dynamic environment, Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, the spokesman for Multi-National Force-Iraq, told reporters at a Baghdad news conference.
An Iraqi Police officer ,left, and U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Rob Landeros, with the California Army National Guard and assigned to the 49th Military Police Brigade, keep watch over a person who was driving a suspicious vehicle at a checkpoint in Ad-Diwaniyah, in southern Iraq. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Adrian Cadiz
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki recently announced the formation of a special committee to address the country’s illegal militia issue, Caldwell said.
The Iraqi Government, he added, is also seeking to reform its Security Ministries. In fact, the Iraqi Government reassigned a number of leaders of the National Police on Oct. 16. “Although the leadership at the division level has changed, the National Police continued to prove itself as a capable, and viable civil force,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell commended the Iraqi Military and Police efforts in combating the insurgency. The Iraqi Security Force is finding “a good number” of weapons caches throughout Iraq. That’s because Iraqi forces are knowledgeable about their areas of operation, Caldwell said, and are growing in size and professionalism.
Caldwell cited a recent joint Iraqi and U.S. Marine operation in Anbar province resulting in the detention of more than 35 suspected insurgents and the discovery of thousands of hidden weapons.
That operation, he said, collected more than 11,000 pieces of weapons and ordnance between Oct. 7 and Oct. 13, including much material suitable for making Improvised Explosive Devices. Discovery of weapons caches in Iraq has increased over the past few months, Caldwell said, noting 170 caches were found in July, 190 in August, and 220 in September.
“Already this month, 144 caches have been found,” Caldwell said. And the Iraqi Security Forces is continuing to grow in numbers, as well as in capability, Caldwell said. More than 312,000 Iraqi Soldiers and Police have been trained and equipped by the Coalition Force.
Caldwell pointed to the Iraqi government’s recruiting plan to bring more than 30,000 new Iraqi troops to serve in troublesome Anbar province by May. And more than 600 Iraqi Police recruits, the general noted, are slated to graduate this week and begin work in the troubled province. In February, 3,800 Iraqi Police worked out of 14 active Iraqi Police stations in three of the nine districts in Anbar province, Caldwell said. Today, there are 33 police stations operating in eight districts, he noted, with more than 8,000 trained Iraqi Police.
Caldwell acknowledged there’s been an increase in insurgent violence since the start of Ramadan in late September. That’s consistent, he said, with similar spikes in enemy activity that have occurred during the month-long Muslim observance in the past two years. “The violence is indeed disheartening,” Caldwell said, noting there’s been a 22-percent increase in insurgent attacks in Baghdad during the first few weeks of this year’s Ramadan observance. But Operation Together Forward has made a difference, and has helped to reduce the amount of sectarian violence in the specific Baghdad neighborhoods. Still, he acknowledged, it hasn’t caused a reduction of the overall level of violence in the city. Meanwhile, “we are working very closely with the government of Iraq to determine how to best to re-focus our efforts,” Caldwell said.
That goal “is achievable,” Caldwell emphasized, “with a combination of both tough security measures by coalition and Iraqi Security Forces and a political process that recognizes that 11 to 12 million Iraqis voted for a unity government.”
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