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Attacks in Iraq Not Slowing Drive Toward Democracy

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 12, 2006 – The horrific attacks against those trying to build a new Iraq and against innocent Iraqis are to create fear and doubt in the people of Iraq, a Multinational Forces Iraq spokesman said in Baghdad today.

Speaking to Pentagon reporters via satellite, Air Force Brig. Gen. Donald Alston said the terrorists targeted innocent Iraqis in the recent string of attacks in Karbala, Baghdad, Muqtadiyah and other areas. The terrorists are not slowing the drive toward democracy, he said.

He also spoke of the coalition and Iraqi successes against the threats of car bombs. The general said the rash of attacks shows that al Qaeda and other terror groups "still have the ability to surge," and said the attacks are aimed at suffocating progress.

He said the terrorists have failed, despite those efforts, to slow the progress of Iraq toward a representative democracy. Each of the three elections in Iraq last year - in January, October and December - had more eligible voters participate and less violence, the general noted.

The terrorists also have failed to stop the growth of the Iraqi security forces. Alston said the Iraqi army and police now number 223,000. They guaranteed security during the election, he said, and will continue to get better as training continues and capabilities increase.

"The terrorists have also clearly failed to hold terrain," he said, "as our operations have sent them on the run time and time again." There is no safe place in Iraq today for terrorists, he said.

Alston spoke about the successes the coalition has had against suicide car bombers. He said that in April 2005, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, committed to using suicide car bombers to launch spectacular attacks against coalition and Iraqi military targets and as part of his self-declared "war" against the Shiia majority in Iraq.

The attacks spiked in May and June last year. "Since that time, we have seen a marked decrease in the number of car bomb attacks and the number of suicide car bomb attacks," the general said.

Alston said car bombs became Zarqawi's weapon system of choice because the system is precise, terrorists can pack the vehicles with large amounts of explosives, and the terrorists can choose densely populated areas - marketplaces, funeral processions and so on. And, he said, "you just need to have, in nine out of 10 cases, a foreign fighter to take that weapon system to its target."

Coalition and Iraqi forces launched operations specifically targeting the "anatomy" of the threat, Alston said. They went after the facilitators, money men, explosives experts, the vehicles and the network that smuggled foreign fighters in to Iraq.

"We have had success in decreasing ... the ability of al Qaeda to sustain those types of mass casualty attacks," he said. "These are not simple operations. Many people were dedicated to these efforts because of the value of these types of attacks."

He said the coalition and Iraqis killed or captured many of those who wanted to launch the attacks. Operations in the western Euphrates River valley and on Iraq's western border choked off the supply of foreign fighters in to Baghdad.

"We killed or captured the people with the skill to enable these attacks," he said. As a result, the terrorists are producing fewer and less-sophisticated bombs, Alston said.

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