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American Forces Press Service

Coalition Forces Ready for Iraq Referendum, General Says

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 7, 2005 – Multinational Force West, in Iraq's Anbar province, has sufficient strength to complete all its missions, including providing security for the country's Oct. 15 constitutional referendum and the December elections, the unit's commander said today.

In a news briefing from Fallujah, Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Stephen Johnson, commander of 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force and Multinational Force West, said Multinational Force West has not been reinforced for the referendum but that the unit's strength has been increased by Iraqi security forces.

"Our overall capability, in terms of manpower, continues to grow as the Iraqi security forces units are trained and join us and continue to improve in their training," Johnson said.

The Anbar province has 5,000 more Iraqi security forces now than it did in July, Johnson said, and every month, these forces improve and grow stronger, which contributes to the overall capability of forces in the area.

Iraqi military leaders have been working closely with coalition forces to learn about planning, coordinating and executing missions, Johnson said. They are making progress, he said, and he estimated that by November about half the Iraqi army forces will be able to take the lead in command and control.

The insurgents are resilient enemies that learn from their mistakes and adapt, but coalition forces recognize that, Johnson said.

"We also adapt to keep ahead of them," he said. "We adapt not only in our tactics, techniques and procedures but also in the equipment that we provide our people to fight the insurgency."

There have been increased attacks over the last few weeks, Johnson said, and he expects there will be more as the constitutional referendum and elections approach. However, coalition and Iraqi forces knew this would happen and are prepared to fight back, he said.

Defeating the insurgents in the field is important to overall victory in Iraq, but the ultimate solution will be political, Johnson said. Military operations create an environment where the government can grow and the intended end state for Iraq can be reached, he added.

"In the end result, in my opinion, it will be a political solution, an adoption of a constitution, a peaceful election where candidates run for office and are elected and they come in and they do things that provide services to their people and to their nation," he said.

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