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American Forces Press Service

Election Preparations Not Disrupted in North-Central Iraq

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 26, 2005 Despite continued efforts, insurgents have been unable impact preparations for elections in the north-central region of Iraq, and that region has a strong plan in place for security during elections scheduled in Iraq in October and December, the commander of U.S. operations in the area said today.

U.S. forces have been concentrating on training Iraqi forces, and collectively, a plan has been made for election security that leaves all parties assured, said Army Maj. Gen. Joseph Taluto, commander of Multinational Division North Central and Task Force Liberty.

"We're comfortable with our election security plan," Taluto told reporters in the Pentagon via an audio feed from Forward Operating Base Danger, in Tikrit, Iraq. "We're very focused."

Iraqi leaders in the area are confident about the elections, mainly because they remember the success they had in the Jan. 30 elections, Taluto said. Confidence is also derived from the better equipped and trained Iraqi security forces, a stronger independent electoral commission, and the growing sense of support for the elections among Iraqi citizens, he added.

As the elections draw nearer, insurgent attacks most likely will increase, Taluto said, but U.S. and Iraqi forces are capable of responding and keeping the area secure.

"As the political dialogue continues, our work intensifies," he said. "Our partnerships are strong, and our resolve even stronger. One of the things that makes our soldiers so determined is the considerable effort they see every day by the Iraqi people, their leaders and their security forces."

Training of the Iraqi security forces in the north-central area continues, and Iraqis will soon be able to take a more prominent role in several areas, Taluto said. In some places, Iraqi forces are already conducting virtually all traffic-control points and doing a considerable amount of work on "flash" control points, he added.

"I can say with great confidence that our Iraqi army forces in north-central -- five brigades, 18 battalions -- are doing extremely well," he said.

The recent decline in U.S. public support for the war has not affected the troops on the ground, Taluto said. Despite people's rights to free expression, the American public understands the situation servicemembers face in Iraq, he said.

"They understand that this is a very difficult environment," he said. "It is a tough, tough mission, day in and day out. The focus for these soldiers has got to be on their jobs. We have to stay focused on what it is we're doing."

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