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Defense Department Report, August 26: Iraq Update

26 August 2005

Iraqi brigades focus on counterinsurgency, election security

A U.S. Army official based in north-central Iraq says that Iraqi voter registration continues in the region even as Iraqi and coalition forces maintain pressure on insurgency forces there.

Major General Joseph Taluto, who commands the 42nd Infantry Division and Task Force Liberty, said his soldiers and Iraqi security forces “see no major changes in the nature of the threat” they face in that part of Iraq, which includes the cities of Balad, Kirkuk, Tikrit and Samarra.

In an August 26 briefing with reporters at the Pentagon via videoconference from Iraq, Taluto said voter registration for the fall elections is occurring in the four north-central provinces at more than 90 sites.  “There is considerable confidence among all our Iraqi partners in securing the referendum vote and election,” he said.

“What is important,” Taluto said, “is that none of the insurgent efforts have had significant impact on the preparations for elections in north-central Iraq and the democratic process.”

While the level of violent activity by religious extremists and foreign fighters is not particularly high right now, Taluto said his forces are seeing activity generated by what he called “Iraqi rejectionists.”  He described them as people who want to see the current political process fail.  There is also a criminal element at large that is seeking to cash in on the chaos generated by the existing insurgency, he added.

Asked about the possibility of a civil war occurring, Taluto said:  “We’re not seeing any indicators … that would lead us to think that sectarian violence is about to break out on any large scale.”

While there are regional tensions and even occasional kidnappings or assassination attempts, the military spokesman said these cannot be attributed to sectarian violence.

Taluto also appraised the Iraqi forces with which he is familiar.  He said his soldiers and their Iraqi counterparts are mostly focused on counterinsurgency operations and election preparations.  “We have made good progress in both of these areas,” he added.

Taluto said the five Iraqi Army brigades are performing extremely well (four have completed all training exercises).  In some cases, he said, these brigades are responsible for all the traffic control points.

The Iraqi forces are also conducting about 50 percent of all the raids, patrols and cordon-and-search operations in the region, Taluto added.

In other areas, Iraqi forces are still learning.  For example, Taluto said, they are learning how to cope with detainees and “how to treat people with dignity and respect.”

With American guidance, he said, the Iraqi soldiers are learning how to operate as “a professional Army organization.”

For additional information, see Iraq Update.

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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