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Iraqi Forces Improve, Insurgents Weakened, General Says

By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 29, 2005 – The Iraqi security forces' capability has increased while insurgent capability has diminished over the past year, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman said at a news briefing in Baghdad today.

"In just 12 months, we have seen the Iraqi security forces increase 77 percent to a total now that numbers more than 223,000," Air Force Brig. Gen. C.D. Alston said. More than 105,000 soldiers, sailors and airmen have been trained and equipped in Iraq's armed forces, and 118,000 Iraqis serve in the country's "highly professional police forces dedicated to defending the Iraq of today and tomorrow," the general said.

The Iraqi security forces are conducting more independent operations throughout the country and are increasingly becoming the object of insurgent attacks. However, these attacks are down from about 90 per day to about 75 per day over the past few months, Alston said.

Iraqi security forces also have made great strides in securing Iraq's borders, which has disrupted the flow of foreign fighters into the country, Alston said.

"Operation National Unity continues in Baghdad to disrupt insurgent activity and ensure a secure environment for the seating of the new Iraqi government," Alston said. Other recent operations killed or captured 700 insurgents and uncovered more than 120 weapons caches, he said.

According to Alston, public support for the ISF also is on the rise, as more and more Iraqis tip off authorities about improvised explosive devices and insurgents operating in their neighborhoods. "Fifty percent of all IEDs found in Kirkuk last week were a direct result of tips from citizens," he said.

Alston also talked about how insurgent trends have changed since the beginning of the year. For instance, a spike in attacks just prior to the January election depleted insurgents' resources, which led to a decrease in their capability after the election. Neither the October referendum nor the Dec. 15 election saw such a pre-election spike; attacks did increase following the elections, but the increases were not sustained, Alston said.

Alston attributed this diminishing insurgent capability to joint offensive operations by coalition and Iraqi forces, improved training of the ISF, and active Sunni participation in the political process. "The choice of ballots over bullets is a very positive development," he said.

"The key to the free future of Iraq is the ability to provide for its own security. Tremendous steps have been made in the training and operational capability of the Iraqi army and Iraqi police," Alston said. "The Iraqi security forces are proving their mettle day in and day out."

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