27 April 2006
Progress Toward Iraqi Unity Government Prompts Optimism
Moves reflects courage and commitment of Iraq's people, U.S. Army spokesman says
By David I. McKeeby
Washington File Staff Writer
Washington – With a national unity government being formed and increasingly capable security forces keeping the peace, Iraq is making real progress, says U.S. Army Major General Rick Lynch.
“There is great optimism on our part and on the part of the Iraqi people,” Lynch told journalists in an April 27 press briefing in Baghdad.
Lynch, spokesman for Multi-National Force - Iraq, cited the Iraqi parliament’s selection of senior leaders, the designation of a new prime minister and work toward forming a national unity government as major advancements. Those factors and an increasingly effective 250,000-member Iraqi security force are aiding the Iraqi government’s goal of a country that “is at peace with its neighbors, is an ally in the war on terrorism, has a representative government that respects the human rights of all Iraqis, and has a security force able to protect all of Iraq,” he said. (See related article.)
In Baghdad, Lynch said, five Iraqi and three coalition battalions continue executing “Operation Scales of Justice,” a combination of more than 1,000 daily patrols and 140 checkpoints initiated in March to discourage insurgent attacks through an increased security presence in and around the city. (See related article.)
Of the 1,167 security patrols carried out on a recent day, Iraqi security forces conducted 60 percent of them independently, Lynch said. To date, he reported, the operation has captured more than 1,000 insurgents, seized 100 caches of weapons and explosives and led to a 10 percent decrease in overall violence in the past week.
This week, 1,200 Iraqis and 500 coalition soldiers launched a new counterinsurgency effort called “Operation Swift Sword” that already has eliminated 12 known insurgents and seized several significant weapons caches in the past two days, Lynch reported.
“We have got to applaud every day the courage and commitment of the Iraqi people,” he added.
As another indicator of the improving security situation, Lynch pointed to progress in finding and defusing improvised explosive devices (IEDs), a favored weapon of insurgent and terrorist groups and a leading cause of deaths and injuries.
In 2005, Lynch said, Iraqi and coalition troops found and removed an average of only 34 percent of all IEDs before detonation. Now, through improved training, intelligence, and stepped-up operations targeting the enemy’s explosives experts, Iraqi and coalition forces are finding and defusing 46 percent of IEDs.
With the overall violence against military targets gradually decreasing, Lynch said, insurgent groups and foreign terrorists are shifting increasingly toward targeting civilians, noting that the week on April17, 60 percent of casualties from these attacks were civilians, twice the number killed in attacks the previous week.
The enemy’s deliberate targeting of civilians is aimed at intimidating the Iraqi people, Lynch said pointing to evidence in pamphlets seized after a recent ambush of coalition forces, which explicitly threaten to kill area residents and their families should they cooperate with the Iraqi government or coalition forces.
“The guy who has the most to lose if a unity government is formed is [Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-] Zarkawi and al-Qaida in Iraq,” said Lynch. But, he added, “Every day we get closer to a unity government in Iraq that truly serves the needs of the Iraqi people, every day he gets closer to mission failure.”
For more information, see Iraq Update.
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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