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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

15 July 2005

Iraqi Forces Assume Greater Solo Responsibilities, General Says

Insurgent training camps are not permitted to take hold

Washington –- Iraqi military and police forces are providing security for increasingly larger swaths of the country and are commanding more respect daily, says a U.S. military officer with knowledge of their operations.

Army Major General Joseph Taluto, commander of the multinational division in the north-central part of the country, told reporters in Baghdad July 15 that Iraqi security forces “are already conducting over half of the operations that we do.”  The Iraqis are either integrated into coalition operations or carrying them out with minimal coalition support, he said, and “that’s a huge accomplishment.”

Taluto’s responsibilities as commander of Task Force Liberty include the Iraqi cities of Balad, Kirkuk, Tikrit and Samarra.  The 23,000 coalition and Iraqi soldiers assigned to the task force are focused on keeping the pressure on the insurgency.  “Our work is protecting the process that will allow Iraqis to develop their new government and build their own sustainable security forces,” he said.

Taluto also reported a 150 percent increase in the number of tips coming in about weapons caches and suspicious vehicles and people.  As a recent example, he said some residents in Kirkuk noticed a vehicle out of place on July 10 and reported it to Iraqi police.  The area was cordoned off, an Iraqi explosive ordnance team came in and found an improvised device rigged for an explosion and defused it successfully –- all without any coalition involvement.  This type of success is occurring ever more frequently, the officer said.

On July 14, Air Force Brigadier General Donald Alston, director of strategic communications for the multinational forces in Iraq, talked about the July 13 suicide bomb attack in Baghdad that resulted in a high number of casualties among a group of children who reportedly were congregating around U.S. soldiers to get handouts of candy.

“Let there be no doubt,” he said, “killing the children was the intent of the terrorists.”

When reporters asked for more about that attack, Alston responded that “We don’t want to put other people in danger, and … [it] was not our intention to put people in the crosshairs of a terrorists … either.”

Alston said he does not know of any area in Iraq that is available as an insurgent training camp.  “We keep pressure on them every day.  They are pushed and they move.  So they are, I think, constantly shifting their presence, and as we get actionable intelligence, we bring our presence to them and … engage them,” the briefing official said.

The insurgents are trying very hard to disrupt basic services in Iraq and derail the democratic process there, Alston said.  “The people of Iraq,” he said, “won’t let democracy be stopped, though.”  The Iraqi Constitution is being drafted, a constitutional referendum will take place in October, followed by elections in December, the general added.

The Iraqi people want to end the terror and bring back security and stability into their lives, Alston said.  “Our constant pressure on the insurgents, the continued progress of the Iraqi security forces and the reconstruction projects that are under way … will help them achieve those aims,” he added.

On the subject of transferring ever-larger parts of the nation to Iraqi security forces, Alston said this process will continue to expand throughout the country over the summer.  “It’ll continue at the local … provincial … and, then, ultimately of course, when … we get closer to the end of our task,” he said, “it will happen at the national level.”

A transcript of General Taluto's briefing is available of the Department of Defense Web site.

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

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