Crisis Caused by Bombing Has Passed, General Says
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 3, 2006 While the threat of violence remains in Iraq, the main crisis caused by the Feb. 22 bombing of a Shiite mosque in Samarra has passed and the people have proven their determination to defeat terror, the commander of coalition forces in Iraq said today.
"This is a difficult time, and there are fairly determined and ruthless terrorists that are out to halt Iraq's movement forward to a democratically elected, constitutionally based government," Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commander of Multinational Force Iraq, said in a news briefing from Iraq. "What I see here on the ground is great persistence by the Iraqis to deny them that."
The bombing came at a sensitive time in Iraq's political development, Casey said. In the first few days following the attack, officials received many exaggerated reports that took time to sort through. A final analysis shows that overall violence did not increase significantly due to the bombing, and the Iraqi security forces generally performed well in response, he said.
"We're quite pleased with what we saw both in the Iraqi army, some of the Iraqi police, and with the improved coordination that we've seen between the army and police," he said.
Iraqi security force leaders took initiative in securing key sites and containing demonstrations and violence following the bombing, Casey said. In places where there was militia activity, Iraqi security forces stepped in and prevented violence, he said. "This demonstrates a maturing capability to cooperate and operate effectively in providing domestic order, and we saw this in several places around the country," he said.
In all cases, Iraqi security forces planned and executed operations to quell violence, with coalition forces in a supporting role, Casey said.
After the bombing, the nature of violence around the country did shift to more attacks on mosques and civilians, Casey said. There were about 30 attacks on mosques and about 350 civilians have been killed since the bombing, he said.
There is still a strong terrorist threat in Iraq, but Iraqi officials are working to resolve sectarian tensions, Casey said. He said he does not think the security situation will get out of control as long as coalition forces continue working with Iraqi security forces and the Iraqi people remain committed to forming a democratic government.
"We are working with the Iraqi security forces to continue to prepare them to assume the lead in counterinsurgency operations, while we are pursuing counterinsurgency operations to bring the insurgency down to a level that these increasingly capable Iraqis can contain," he said.