Iraqi Forces Prove Eager to Help, Become More Capable
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 27, 2006 Iraqi military and police forces are eager to help find solutions for the challenges facing their country, and they are becoming more capable of assuming increased responsibility for security, a senior U.S. military officer said in Baghdad today.
As President Bush deliberates the way ahead in Iraq, the Iraqi people and their security forces will ultimately have the responsibility to quell violence and effect peace across the country, Army Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, Multinational Force Iraq spokesman, told reporters.
“Ultimately, Iraqis have to step up and develop solutions to their country’s problems,” Caldwell said. “Yet, in the face of persistently high levels of violence, the Iraqi people are demonstrating that they are eager to do just that.”
More than 1,100 Iraqis recently signed up for the police forces in troubled Anbar province, , Caldwell said, a place where there’d been no previous demonstration of such civic resolve.
More Iraqi citizens are also stepping forward to provide information about extremist and criminal activities to authorities, Caldwell said. From January to September 2006, he said, Iraqis provided an average of 4,500 tips monthly to authorities about possible terrorist or criminal activity in their areas.
Between October and November, such citizen-supplied tips increased by 66 percent to more than 7,600 tips per month. As of Dec. 22, the pace of tips received was anticipated to yield more than 8,700 this month, Caldwell said.
“This would indicate to us that the Iraqi people are tired of the violence perpetrated upon them by terrorist and criminal elements, and they want to be part of the solution,” Caldwell said.
Consequently, U.S. and coalition officials are accelerating plans to transfer more security responsibilities to the government of Iraq and its security forces, Caldwell said.
The Iraqi army and police now have overall responsibility for all security and law enforcement activities in Najaf province. It is the third Iraqi province, he said, that provides for its own security and law enforcement.
“This transfer of responsibility comes as the Iraqi security forces continue to demonstrate increasingly tactical capabilities,” Caldwell said, noting that 87 percent of operations conducted so far this month have been conducted by Iraqi security forces operating either independently or jointly with coalition forces.
Recent Iraqi-conducted operations in Baghdad, he said, uncovered 18 significant enemy weapons caches.
The situation still isn't perfect, however. Iraqi security forces still have to improve their logistics systems and leadership, and some soldiers and police have proven disloyal to the government, Caldwell said.
“That is why the multinational force is consistently and continuously reassessing and strengthening how we train, advise and assist the Iraqi forces,” Caldwell said. “We are seeing signs that the Iraqi forces are beginning to address some of these problems themselves.”
For example, Iraqi police and British forces two days ago raided a rogue Iraqi police unit in Basra that had been infiltrated by extremists, Caldwell said. That operation rescued more than 120 hostages, most of whom had been tortured.
“While infiltration of some (Iraqi) units persists, this operation demonstrates that the government of Iraq takes it seriously and understands and is initiating steps to mitigate this infiltration within the police units,” Caldwell said.
Although significant challenges remain in Iraq and violence there is likely to remain high in the near term, Caldwell said there’s hope for the future.
“Iraqi forces are making progress to provide their own security and the Iraqi people are demonstrating great resolve to defeat these terrorists and criminals plaguing Iraq,” he said.