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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

16 June 2006

Iraqi Forces Seen Taking Back Baghdad

Coalition general reports progress on "Operation Together Forward"

By David McKeeby
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington – Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s first priority is to secure the capital, and Iraqi security forces, supported by their coalition allies, are stepping up to the challenge, says a U.S. Army general.

It is all about the Iraqi government stepping forward to reduce violence, said Major General James Thurman, speaking from Baghdad via videoconference with Pentagon reporters at a June 16 briefing.  “Our combined operations with Iraqi security forces are defeating and disrupting terrorist cells and capturing high-value targets,” he said.

Thurman commands Multinational Division Baghdad, a 61,000-strong force charged with keeping the peace in Iraq’s capital region.  The force is comprised of approximately 31,000 Iraqi army and national police as well as 30,000 U.S. and coalition forces.  (See related article.)

Working in coordination with approximately 22,000 local police officers, the division is supporting the new government’s top priority: curbing violence in Baghdad.  (See related article.)

NEW IRAQI GOVERNMENT COMMITTED TO SECURITY

Iraqi authorities launched a new security operation: Operation Ma'an ila al-Amam (“Together Forward”).  Due to a combination of newly implemented anti-terrorism and weapons control laws, and a joint security operation with Iraqi army and police forces, violence in and around Baghdad already is declining, Thurman reported.  (See related article.) 

“With precise, intelligence-driven operations, we continue to target the groups that stand in opposition to a free and prosperous Iraq,” the general said.

Thurman said that Iraqi security forces currently are leading operations across 80 percent of the division’s area of responsibility.  Since the launch of Operation Together Forward, he said he has observed the commitment of Iraq’s security forces to bringing Baghdad under their control.  (See related article.)

INSURGENT BOMBS BECOMING LESS EFFECTIVE

Thurman reported that his division continued to improve its effectiveness against roadside bombs or improvised explosive devices (IEDs) – a weapon of choice among the terrorists and a leading cause of death of Iraqi and coalition forces.

Since arriving in Baghdad six months ago, Thurman said, the division has encountered nearly 3,400 IEDs.

But with improved training, more tips from local residents and better trash removal, he said 38 percent of the bombs are being disarmed safely.  (See related article.)

Although his troops have seen a slight spike in the number of explosive devices – 814 in May – he said the IEDs are of poor quality and less effective now.

POLICE RECRUITMENT ON THE RISE

The Ministry of Interior is working to staff all 262 police stations in and around Baghdad, Thurman said, and several surrounding regions have exceeded recruiting targets for new police officers.

Eventually, security responsibilities will be returned to civil authorities in Baghdad, Babil, Karbala and Najaf, he said. 

A transcript and a video link to Thurman’s briefing are available on the Pentagon Channel Web site.  

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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