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Published:August 22nd, 2006 03:56 EST
Baghdad progress renews hope

Baghdad progress renews hope

By SOP newswire

BAGHDAD — Efforts this week to quell violence in the capital city are showing signs of progress, but Coalition leaders say the battle is far from over.

“Abating the extremists in the capital will neither be easy nor rapid,” Multi-National Force - Iraq spokesman Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV said this week of progress in the capital city. “Challenges will ensue, but efforts will march forward block by block.”

U.S. and Iraqi forces have been conducting combined missions in Baghdad as part of Operation Together Forward, an Iraqi-led campaign to reduce violence in the capital, while at the same time promoting economic incentives, civic action projects and the control of illegal weapons.

This past week, Iraqi and Coalition forces concentrated on four major Baghdad hot spots – mostly in the western part of the city – in an effort to reduce the number of murders, kidnappings, assassinations and car bombs in those areas.  Operations in the al-Doura neighborhood of southern Baghdad continued to build on the improved security established over the past two weeks. 

The operations in western Baghdad are led by the Soldiers from the 6th Iraqi Army Division and policemen from the 2nd Iraqi National Police Division, supported by Soldiers from 2nd Brigade Combat Team and 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team.

Approximately 6,000 additional Iraqi Security Forces were sent to the Multi-National Division - Baghdad area of operations in support of Operation Together Forward, as well as approximately 3,500 Soldiers of 172nd SBCT, and 2,000 Soldiers from the 2nd BCT.

According to the Coalition commander responsible for operations in Baghdad, the concept essentially calls on Coalition and Iraqi forces to cordon off an area and search each street, house by house.

Maj. Gen. James Thurman, commander of Multi-National Division - Baghdad, this week said he is optimistic about what he has seen since operations to quell sectarian violence started.

“Security in Baghdad is the top priority for everyone working in Operation Together Forward,” added Col. Robert Scurlock, commander of the 1st Armored Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team. “Iraqi security forces and Coalition forces are working side by side every day to increase security in Baghdad and help the Iraqi people return to a more normal domestic life.”

Operations in the capital city have not only been successful in the security arena, but also in terms of developing relationships between the Iraqi people and Iraqi security forces, added Col. Michael Beech, commander of 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.

Caldwell added that the most significant developments are less easily measured.

“What really matters is the number of businesses that reopened and will remain open, the refurbished stalls … in the marketplace there,” said the general. “The drainage has improved. The rubbish is removed. And of course, like we’d all like to see, the number of children that you can see during their summer break out riding their bikes and playing in the streets.”

Caldwell said operations look beyond short-term security concerns. The mantra is “clear, hold, rebuild.” Iraqi and Coalition forces clear neighborhoods and hold them so terrorists cannot come back, and they invest in rebuilding essential services and stimulating economic growth.

“The military forces, the Iraqi security forces, the Coalition support can help set the stage for peace to occur, but they cannot achieve peace,” he said. “It’s going to take all the other factors. It’s going to take the economics; it’s going to take the governance; and, most importantly, it’s going to take the will of the Iraqi people to make this both work and sustain itself. But they’ve absolutely got the commitment.”

In Ameriya -- a key neighborhood in western Baghdad -- more than 50 percent of the shops in the market were re-opened after Iraqi and Coalition forces joined this week to squelch the violence in that neighborhood, Iraqi Army Brig. Gen. Abdul Jaleel said during a press conference Aug. 16.

Jaleel is the commander of 1st Brigade, 6th Iraq Army Division, the unit that took the lead during recent security efforts in the town with support from the U.S. 2nd Brigade Combat Team.

Iraqi and Coalition forces searched about 6,000 houses and buildings in the Ameriya neighborhood, including the market area.

During the joint press conference, Jaleel and Scurlock said they see reclaiming the market as a way to repair a neighborhood that was torn apart by violence.

“We want to get the stores open and get people back to a normal life,” said Scurlock. “With unity and security, there will be prosperity.”

Although combined Coalition and Iraqi operations here have done much to reduce violence and bring stability to the area, the ultimate solution depends on the Iraqi people’s willingness to reject violence and cooperate with Iraqi security forces, according to Beech.

“The security situation confronting the capital is a complex one, and the solution must be long-term,” he said. “The Iraqi government, Coalition forces and Iraqi security forces are dedicated to establishing peace in Baghdad.”

Along with providing essential services, he said the current security plan makes provisions for long-term stability within this area.

“To ensure the population (that) is living in these neighborhoods knows who's responsible for securing them, we have worked to establish habitual relationships between particular Iraqi security forces, U.S. forces with a particular neighborhood.”

Neighborhoods within Baghdad are being paired with a particular Iraqi Police company and a U.S. military company.

“This is in an effort to establish true community-based policing and security and build trust and confidence in the national police and the people that they protect,” added the colonel.

One indicator that the Iraqi people trust their security forces more is the increase in communication between the people and the Iraqi Police, explained Beech. He said the Iraqi brigade commander in his area has been receiving more and more phone calls from concerned citizens with tips, and imams of the local mosques are talking to him more readily.

As the security plan for Baghdad moves forward, and Iraqi citizens gain trust in their security forces, operations are beginning to see tangible results.

In addition to large munitions cache discoveries, this week Iraqi and Coalition forces thwarted a number of kidnapping attempts, captured several key insurgent leaders and numerous terrorist suspects, and sponsored several civic and humanitarian-assistance projects to help provide for the needs of Baghdad residents.

SOURCE:  Multi-National Forces