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Iraq Making Progress on Political, Security Fronts

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 27, 2006 – Iraq took another step toward forming a national unity government April 22, when it selected its top leaders, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman said today.

"We've got to applaud every day the courage and commitment of the Iraqi people," Army Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch told reporters in Baghdad. "They're doing what they're doing for ... Iraq at great risk and great personal sacrifice."

He said the country's political progress isn't good news for Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and al Qaeda, who have the most to lose in the national unity government's formation.

Selection of Iraq's president, two vice presidents, a speaker and his two deputies led to a surge of violence in Baghdad on April 24. In a six-hour time frame, four suicide and four conventional car bombs exploded in the city.

"(Zarqawi) still has the capability of conducting surge operations and he ... did that in an act of desperation because he sees this national unity government forming," Lynch said.

Attacks like these are being increasingly thwarted though, he said.

"Since mid-March when we started (Operation Scales of Justice) we, with the Iraqi security forces, have apprehended over 1,000 insurgents in Baghdad and have found over 100 weapons caches," Lynch said.

In the last 24 hours, 1,167 patrols were conducted in Baghdad as part of the operation, he said. Sixty percent of those patrols were Iraqi-led.

"Violence in Baghdad continues to decrease," Lynch said. "This past week, the number of attacks ... were 10 percent less than the week before."

He noted that 59 percent of the 29 improvised explosive devices emplaced in Baghdad in the past 24 hours have been cleared. Another 12 IEDs were found in the western part of the country, he said, adding that 50 percent of those had been cleared.

On average, the number of IEDs found and cleared has risen from 34 percent last October to over 46 percent today.

"So our increased training, our reliance on advanced technology and our ability to take the bomb-makers off the street have helped with our operations against IEDs," Lynch said.

Despite the continued violence, there is no indication the country is headed toward civil war, the general said. "We see us moving away from it."

Lynch said the coalition is paying attention to four violence indicators.

One shows some evidence of what he described as "ethno-sectarian mobilization," or sectarian militias. This is one area that critical for the national unity government to address immediately, he said.

Another points to a trend of government decisions being made on what's good for Iraq, not what's good for a religious sect. Nor is there sustained sectarian strife throughout the country, Lynch said, about another indicator.

The last factor, forced population movement, has been widely reported, Lynch said, though the coalition cannot confirm most reports.

"There is ... indication of displaced persons inside of Iraq," he said, adding that many who are moving are doing so for personal reasons. "But we're not seeing internally displaced persons at the rate which causes us alarm."

As Iraq works toward its desired end state of a representative government, peace with its neighbors, and becoming an ally in the war on terror, it also is making great strides in another critical area.

The country's security force has climbed to 250,000 trained and equipped security personnel. That growth is apparent in Anbar province where today 19,000 Iraqi security personnel are in Anbar. Another 1,600 Anbar residents, 900 army and 700 police recruits, are in training, he said.

"They continue to enlist to be part of the solution here in Iraq, rather than part of the problem," Lynch said.

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