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Iraqi Security Forces Taking Larger Role in Southern Baghdad

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 26, 2006 – More and more Iraqi national police are working alongside U.S. soldiers in securing southern Baghdad, a U.S. Army colonel working there said today.

Terrorists would like the American public to believe violent groups are winning the fight in Baghdad, Army Col. Michael Beech, commander of 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, said from Forward Operating Base Prosperity in central Baghdad. "But, of course, that's not what's happening here," he said.

Beech's brigade includes 4,400 U.S. troops, a battalion of soldiers from the former Soviet republic of Georgia, and about 2,000 Iraq soldiers and police. They are responsible for security in central and southern Baghdad as part of Multinational Division Baghdad. He spoke to reporters in the Pentagon via teleconference this morning.

"We have a great opportunity right now, with the new government of Iraq taking charge here in Baghdad, with the inauguration just several days ago," Beech said. "And with that opportunity and the Iraqi security forces that gain in capability every day, that presents us an opportunity in order to neutralize this insurgency."

Cooperation among all the friendly forces in Baghdad will be the key to stopping the insurgency. "I meet with my Iraqi security force counterparts every week, and we look at the problems holistically," Beech said. "We look at how we can partner to solve these problems."

He spoke of recent trends in the Dora section of Baghdad, which is within Beech's area of responsibility. Civilian murders had been on the rise in recent months, Beech said.

The situation was further complicated because authorities had a hard time determining if the deaths were from terrorists, criminals or secular violence. But officials redoubled efforts in the area, and the number of murders -- previously six or more a day -- has gone down over the past two weeks, Beech said.

"We refocused our efforts -- both the Iraqi security forces' and the U.S. forces' -- in this area," Beech said, adding that the forces implemented new tactics and techniques.

"I think what we're doing is right on target, and we're going to continue to employ those techniques, as well as incorporate some others to make sure that we can bring those attacks on the population down even further," he said.

Iraqi security forces were invaluable in dealing with local leaders, Beech said.

The colonel said a "successful end state" in Baghdad will be for Iraqi security forces to "take the lead in counterinsurgency operations and to create an environment which enables the Iraqi government to establish the rule of law."

"They are stepping up with more pride and confidence every day," he said. "They are earning the respect of the population they protect.

"Because of the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces, we are not doing more with less, but we are doing more with more. The (Iraqi security forces) know the people, they know the street, and they know what 'right' looks like."

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