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Iraqi Security Forces Are Greatly Improved, Official Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 13, 2005 – Iraqi security forces are proving their effectiveness against the terrorists trying to topple the country's new democratic government, a senior defense official said in Baghdad today.

"We have crossed some threshold with the Iraqi security forces that enables us to leave them behind to be the persistent presence in these towns along the Euphrates River Valley, particularly up in Tal Afar," said the official, speaking on background.

Iraqi soldiers and police have made great strides in recent months, the official said. They've also assisted coalition troops, he said, in reducing terrorist presence and influence in the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah -- former hotbeds of anti-government activity -- in the days leading up to the country's Oct. 15 constitutional referendum.

"They had a great effect on Ramadi during the referendum vote," said the official. And thanks to the efforts of Iraqi security forces, he predicted, safe and secure voting will take place in Ramadi and at other polling sites during the Dec. 15 elections.

Expanded Iraqi security presence in Fallujah also has raised expectations of a larger voter turnout there than during the Oct. 15 referendum, the official said. He estimated that 10 million Iraqis countrywide, including large numbers of Sunnis who had previously boycotted the country's elections, will cast ballots on Dec. 15.

The official said Iraqi security forces are adept at securing real estate taken from the terrorists, which he said is a key to stability. Iraqi police and soldiers are gaining the trust of the local citizenry, he said, who in growing numbers are identifying terrorists in their midst to authorities.

"The key to all of this is the ability to hold the ground we've cleared. And that ability has been enabled by the Iraqi security forces," the official said.

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