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Security Situation Dominates Iraq Discussions

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, Dec. 8, 2005 – The security situation in Iraq continues to dominate any discussion of the road ahead in the country, coalition military officials said on background here today.

Terrorists and foreign fighters are a far greater problem than their numbers, officials said. While the number of foreign fighters is actually quite small, they cause a huge number of casualties. Officials said the foreign fighters are primarily suicide bombers whose mission is to disrupt upcoming elections and derail the democratic process.

Embassy officials said the suicide bombers hope to sap the will of not only Iraqis, but of the American people. American resolve is the "center of gravity in the war on terrorism, and the enemy knows that," an official said.

Iraqi citizens see security as a measure of a government's legitimacy. Iraqis will view a government that cannot provide security as ineffective at best. Coalition officials expect that foreign fighters will launch attacks after the Dec. 15 elections in an attempt to detract from the political process and steal legitimacy from the government.

Foreign fighters are seeking to create a civil war. Officials said foreign fighters are launching attacks against civilians in an effort to create sectarian tension, especially between Shiite and Sunni Arabs.

Coalition efforts to combat terrorists and foreign fighters may be having an effect. Attacks in November were down 37 percent from October. Of those attacks, only 24 percent were effective. Terrorists have increased attacks aimed at civilians. Officials attribute some of this to actions along the western Euphrates River Valley -- the route many foreign fighters use to enter Iraq.

The number of suicide attacks is down sharply. While still deadly, the number and coordination of the attacks has dropped, officials said.

This is especially noticeable in the number of suicide car-bomb attacks that have been launched. Increased patrolling and better intelligence have also aided coalition and Iraqi forces. In November, more car bombs were found and cleared than were detonated by suicide drivers, officials said.

Improvised explosive devices continue to be terrorists' weapons of choice. IEDs account for 42 percent of all attacks launched in Iraq, officials said. Still, the number of IEDs found and disarmed continues to rise, as does the number of tips given coalition forces from Iraqis.

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