Referendum Security Boost Iraqi Confidence, British General Says
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 4, 2005 The secure environment in which Iraqis voted on a constitutional referendum Oct. 15 increased Iraqis' confidence in their security forces, a top official said.
"I think the real success for the referendum security was the increased confidence it gave to the Iraqi security forces themselves and, through them, to the Iraqi people," British Royal Marine Maj. Gen. Jim Dutton, commander of Multinational Division Southeast, said in a news conference from Basra, Iraq, today. "That will be significant in the way in which the (security forces) are seen by the Iraqi people in the future."
Dutton is in charge of coalition operations in the region. He said this increased confidence is important as plans progress to completely transition security operations to Iraqi forces. While tailored to each individual region, the plans will enable Iraqi forces to provide their own security with decreasing dependence on coalition forces.
Relative calm in Iraq's southeast gives security forces there a head start on this process. "We are in a situation here now, and have been for some time, (where) Iraqi forces take the lead for security," Dutton said. "We are not, after all, fighting an insurgency down here."
Generally, Iraqi police handle any security issues that arise, he said. Should they need assistance, they request help from the Iraqi army through a provincial joint operations center that handles emergency calls.
The low number of security incidents has aided the security forces' ability to handle things on their own. The southeast region accounts for about 2 percent of all security incidents in the country, Dutton said.
"It has varied from a low of 1.2 percent up to (about) 5 percent," he said today. "Even at its worst, this is a relatively stable area in comparison to other parts of the country."
That insurgent activity hasn't significantly spiked in the region since the referendum reinforces that fact. The improvised-explosive-device threat does, however, concern coalition and Iraqi forces in the region. Since the beginning of August, IEDs caused 18 deaths in the area, with the last occurring Oct. 18, Dutton said. One IED exploded since then, but was not lethal.
"We're continuing to support the government and security forces in their effort to tackle these attacks," he said. "We're conducting operations both with and independently from the Iraqis to do everything we can to try and reduce the threat from this particular weapons system."
Guarding Iraq's border with Iran is one key to reducing security threats, he said. "Certainly we've seen movements of explosives across the border," Dutton said, adding that disrupting this activity is a high priority. "It's a long and difficult border to police. And one of the problems is it only has one legal border crossing between the (Persian) Gulf and Baghdad."
Adding a second legal cross point would make policing the rest of the border easier, he said. Coalition forces and Iraqi authorities are pursuing that option.
"There's still a lot of work to be done throughout Iraq, and still down here in the south as well, in terms of security-sector reform and in assisting in reconstruction," Dutton said. "How long it takes partly depends on the Iraqis. I hope that a stable government after the elections in December will speed up this process markedly."